Analyse expérimentale de l'effet de couverts de légumineuses associés en relais à un blé d'hiver, conduit en agriculture biologique, sur les performances des cultures, la maîtrise des adventices et la dynamique de l'azote

Abstract : Cereal productivity and quality are subject to two main problems in organic stockless systems: chronic soil nitrogen (N) deficiencies and weed infestation. Legume species as clovers or alfalfas can be used as cover crops and green manures due to their natural ability to fix atmospheric N. Nevertheless, their substitution to cereals in crop rotations is less economically viable without animals to use it. Relay intercropping of legume cover crops (RIL) in winter wheat was expected to simultaneously enrich the soil-plant system in N, cover the soil from the wheat harvest onwards and limit the risk of competition with wheat by delaying the undersowing of legumes in spring. To evaluate the efficiency of RIL, four legume species (Medicago lupulina L., M. sativa L., Trifolium pratense L. and T. repens L.) were undersown at wheat tillering stage, in eight fields organically managed in the Rhône-Alpes region, France. Their effects on weed control, on N enrichment, preservation and restitution in the soil-plant system and on crop performance were observed during the succession of the winter wheat and a spring crop. RIL residues were incorporated in soil in late winter, 9 to 12 weeks before the sowing of spring crops. Our work illustrated the absence of detrimental effect of RIL on wheat grain yield despite the decrease of the grain protein content in one third of the situations. This decrease was mainly observed with M. lupulina and T. pratense as they were the most developed legume species at wheat harvest. Our monitoring of trophic resources (water, N and light) enlightened the competition for soil water and N during the intercropping period. We also showed the efficiency of RIL in the control of weed density from wheat flowering stage onwards and of weed aerial biomass in late autumn. The best weed control was observed with M. lupulina and T. pratense, at wheat harvest, and with T. pratense and T. repens in late autumn, in relation to the highest aerial biomasses observed with these species. Finally, we noted an important proportion of N derived from atmosphere (Ndfa) in legumes' shoots in late autumn (80 to 94%), representing an input of exogenous N in the soil-plant system ranging from 37 to 77 kg Ndfa ha-1. The N enrichment of the system did not increase mineral N lixiviation during winter. However, legume cover crops did not significantly prevent any lixiviation of mineral N relative to the control without cover crop. After their ploughing in, legumes residues returned a part of the accumulated N (+28 to +42 kg ha-1 of mineral N in the first 90 cm of soil compared to the control at the emergence of the spring crop, 12 weeks after ploughing). This restitution of mineral N allowed a significant N enrichment of straw and grains of the spring crop with all previous legumes cover crop species. With maize as spring crop, the grain yield increased by 30%, on average, compared to the control treatment. We finally conclude on the interest of RIL in winter wheat to bring a positive response to the problems of weed control, N deficiency and crop performances in organic crop rotations. We then suggest possible improvements of the RIL system, especially against the competition for trophic resources during the relay intercropping period. We also mention scientific and practical implications of this work for future studies on this subject.
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Camille Amossé. Analyse expérimentale de l'effet de couverts de légumineuses associés en relais à un blé d'hiver, conduit en agriculture biologique, sur les performances des cultures, la maîtrise des adventices et la dynamique de l'azote. Agronomie. AgroParisTech, 2013. Français. ⟨NNT : 2013AGPT0009⟩. ⟨tel-01179727⟩

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