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A trait-based analysis to assess the ability of cover crops to control weeds in a tropical island

Christina M., Negrier A., Marnotte P., Viaud P., Mansuy A., Auzoux S., Técher P., Hoarau E., Chabanne A.. 2021. European Journal of Agronomy, 128 : 10 p..

DOI: 10.18167/DVN1/HA0V2G

DOI: 10.1016/j.eja.2021.126316

Cover crops have a high potential to manage weeds through competition for shared resources in tropical agrosystems. Assessing the abilities of a large number of different plant species to compete with weeds requires experiments in different pedo-climatic environments. Our study was based on a set of 10 trials including 46 species of cover crops performed from 2016 to 2018 in three sites in Reunion Island. Our aim was to identify and measure plant traits of cover crops that maximize ground cover and weed control under a tropical climate. We characterized two traits of interest (mean ground cover and rate of increase in ground cover) and compared the family, area of origin and life cycle of the cover crops. The ability of cover crops to cover the soil increased with rate of increase in height and leaf appearance rate and tended to decrease with thermal time for emergence. Accordingly, weed control efficiency (low weed cover and dry mass) was positively correlated with ground cover, height and biomass. Using functional traits to characterize plant species enabled us to identify cover crops that could be used in tropical agrosystems as an alternative to herbicides, for instance, on sugarcane in Reunion Island.

Mots-clés : plante de couverture; mauvaise herbe; compétition culture mauvaise herbe; plante de culture associée; désherbage; réunion; france

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