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Improving Resilience of Northern Field Crop Systems Using Inter-Seeded Red Clover: A Review

Author(s): Amélie C. M. Gaudin | Sabrina Westra | Cora E. S. Loucks | Ken Janovicek | Ralph C. Martin | William Deen

Journal: Agronomy (Basel)
ISSN 2073-4395

Volume: 3;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 148;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: red clover | Trifolium pratense | cropping system | wheat | cover crop | inter-seeding | resilience | input use efficiency

In light of the environmental challenges ahead, resilience of the most abundant field crop production systems must be improved to guarantee yield stability with more efficient use of nitrogen inputs, soil and water resources. Along with genetic and agronomic innovations, diversification of northern agro-ecosystems using inter-seeded legumes provides further opportunities to improve land management practices that sustain crop yields and their resilience to biotic and abiotic stresses. Benefits of legume cover crops have been known for decades and red clover (Trifolium pratense) is one of the most common and beneficial when frost-seeded under winter wheat in advance of maize in a rotation. However, its use has been declining mostly due to the use of synthetic fertilizers and herbicides, concerns over competition with the main crop and the inability to fully capture red clover benefits due to difficulties in the persistence of uniform stands. In this manuscript, we first review the environmental, agronomic, rotational and economical benefits associated with inter-seeded red clover. Red clover adaptation to a wide array of common wheat-based rotations, its potential to mitigate the effects of land degradation in a changing climate and its integration into sustainable food production systems are discussed. We then identify areas of research with significant potential to impact cropping system profitability and sustainability.
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