icfar: PI2

LOCATION: San Piero a Grado, Pisa, Italy (43.41° N, 10.23° E) - See map
START-END YEARS: 1993- ongoing
CROP TYPE: 4-yr (arable): maize-winter wheat-(cover crop)-sunflower-winter wheat-(cover crop). The experiment was run as a continuous maize-(cover crop) system from 1993 to 2000 and as a maize-common wheat-(cover crop) 2-yr rotation from 2001 to 2006
FACTORS: SPLIT-SPLIT-PLOT DESIGN with three factors: TILLAGE (annual plough vs reduced tillage) as main factor; NITROGEN FERTILIZATION RATE (N0-N1-N2-N3) as sub-plot factor; COVER CROP (none; non-leguminous species; low-N supply legume species; high-N supply legume species) as sub-subplot factor
Maize continuous crop reduces biodiversity, increase risks of nitrogen leaching and induces weed flora specialisation. In this context, inclusion of cover crops in the time span from harvest to seeding of the next maize crop may help preserve soil fertility and reduce external inputs to the system.
A long-term experiment was established on a Typic Xerofluvent loam soil in 1993 at the Interdepartmental Centre for Agro-Environmental Research (CIRAA) ‘Enrico Avanzi’ of the University of Pisa to study the effects of tillage system, N fertilization and cover crops on soil quality, crop productivity and weed dynamics for a 4-yr crop rotation: (cover crops) Grain Maize (Zea mays L.) – Durum wheat (Triticum durum Desf.) – (cover crops) Sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) – Durum wheat. The experiment was run as a continuous maize-(cover crop) system from 1993 to 2000 and as a maize-common wheat-(cover crop) 2-yr rotation from 2001 to 2006.
Two tillage systems, four N fertilization rates and four soil cover types were factorially combined in a split-split-plot design with four replications, giving a total of 128 sub-sub-plots of 21 m length and 11 m width each. The tillage systems (main plots) are: conventional tillage (CT), i.e. mouldboard ploughing of the cover crops down to 30–35 cm depth, and no-tillage (NT), i.e. surface mulching of cover crop residues. The nitrogen fertilization rates (sub-plots: no nitrogen, N0; low nitrogen, N1; medium nitrogen, N2; and high nitrogen, N3) differed upon the main crop in rotation (0, 100, 200 and 300 kg N ha-1 for maize; 0, 60, 120 and 180 kg N ha-1 for durum wheat; and 0, 50, 100, and 150 kg N ha-1 for sunflower.
The cover types treatments (sub-sub-plots) consisted of three cover crops plus a control (C) without cover crop (i.e. residues of the previous main crop plus weeds). The three types of cover crops included in the systems were: a non-legume cover crop and two species of legume cover crop. Since the experiment focused more on the system effect than on the effect of individual cover crops, the design allowed freedom to change the cover crop species in order to optimize the efficiency of the systems in terms of nutrient cycling and soil fertility conservation. Therefore, the cover crop species were changed periodically to include the best cover crops for the experimental site conditions based on our experience. Presently, Vicia villosa Roth, Trifolium squarrosum L., and Brassica juncea L. are the three cover crop species.


SITE MANAGER CONTACT: Marco Mazzoncini, email: marco.mazzoncini@unipi.it;
Bonari E., Mazzoncini M., Menini S. & Moscetta D. (1997). Effetti delle "Cover Crops" nella omosuccessione del mais (Zea mays L.) da granella in terreni limosi. Agricoltura Ricerca 169, 39-52.
Mazzoncini M., Bonari E., Menini S., Ginanni M., Bàrberi P. (1997). Primi risultati sull’inserimento delle colture di copertura nella omosuccessione del mais da granella (Zea mays L.). Rivista di Agronomia 3 suppl., 884-893.
Bàrberi P. (1997). Weed suppression by cover crops in a continuous maize cropping system. Proceedings 10th EWRS Symposium, Poznań (PL), 22-26 June, 98.
Silvestri N, Bellocchi G., Mazzoncini M. & Menini S. (1999). Evaluation of the Cropsyst model for simulating soil water, soil nitrate, green area index and above-ground biomass of maize under different managements. Proceedings of International Symposium Modelling Cropping Systems – European Society for Agronomy Division Agroclimatology and Agronomic Modelling – Lleida, 21-23 June, 253-254.
Bàrberi P. & Mazzoncini M. (2001). Changes in weed community composition as influenced by cover crop and management system in continuous corn. Weed Science 49, 491-499.
Moonen A.C. & Bàrberi P. (2002). A system-oriented approach to the study of weed suppression by cover crops and their residues. Proceedings 5th Workshop of the EWRS Working Group on Physical and Cultural Weed Control, Pisa (IT), 11-13 March, 184-191.
Moonen A.C. & Bàrberi P. (2002). The effect of 7-year old cover crop-maize systems managed at various input levels on the size and composition of the weed seedbank. Proceedings 12th EWRS Symposium, Arnhem (NL), 24-28 June, 56-57.
Moonen A.C. & Bàrberi P. (2004). Size and composition of the weed seedbank after 7 years of different cover crop-maize management systems. Weed Research 44, 163-177.
Antichi, D., Mazzoncini, M. (2008). Colture di copertura, opportunità per la rotazione e l’ambiente. Terra e Vita, 25, p. 32-35.
Mazzoncini, M., Antichi, D., Silvestri, N., Perrone, L. (2009). Effetti di Lungo Periodo della Non- Lavorazione e delle Colture di Copertura sulla Stabilità degli Aggregati e sul Contenuto in Sostanza Organica di un Terreno Alluvionale Limoso. Atti del XXXVIII Convegno Nazionale della Società Italiana di Agronomia, Firenze, 21-23 Settembre 2009, p. 197-198. ISBN: 9788890438707.
Mazzoncini, M., Sapkota, T. B., Barberi, P., Antichi, D., Risaliti, R. (2011). Long-term effect of tillage, nitrogen fertilization and cover crops on soil organic carbon and total nitrogen content. Soil and Tillage Research 114, p. 165-174.
Antichi, D., De Angeli, A., Mazzoncini, M. (2011). Colture di copertura, la sostenibilità in pratica. Terra e  Vita 25, p. 62-67.
Sapkota, T. B., Mazzoncini, M., Bàrberi, P., Antichi, D., Silvestri, N. (2012). Fifteen years of no till increase soil organic matter, microbial biomass and arthropod diversity in cover crop-based arable cropping systems. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 32 (4), p. 853-863.

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