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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory » Research » Research Project #431425

Research Project: Cover Crop Green Bridge: The Ecosystem Service of Using Cover Crop and Cash Crop Rotations to Beneficially Shift the Agroecosystem Phytobiomes

Location: Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-12120-001-003-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 8, 2016
End Date: Sep 7, 2021

Analyze the effects of agricultural management systems on soil biodiversity and functions. In particular we will focus on the role of cover crops to maintain and propagate beneficial root associated microbes that improve agroecosystem efficiency and reduce disease prevalence. Use next-generation sequencing technology to better understand the plant associated microbial community involved with nutrient acquisition and disease ecology.

USDA-ARS BARC and LESREC are conducting experiments on their research stations that span a wide range of crop rotation intensity. Our central hypothesis is that crop rotation intensity is a factor in cash crop plant health and nutrient uptake due in part to the associative soil and rhizosphere microbes that “carry over” from one live plant to the next in the rotation. We can select for cover crops (or cover crop/cash crop rotations) that foster more beneficial rhizosphere and endophytic plant associated microbes, and give our cash crops a selective advantage when fighting off diseases and establishing symbiotic microbe nutrient uptake networks. We plan to use a combination of microscopic, biochemical and molecular techniques to quantify the abundance of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi and disease causing organisms in roots of cover crops and the following cash crop. This will help us determine the beneficial effects of cover crop mediated plant microbe interactions on cash crop disease prevention and nutrient up take.