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The effect of three or five years of set-aside on the husbandry and grain yield of subsequent cereal crops in the UK

J.M. Smith, S.K. Cook, A.R. Mills, E.T.G. Bacon and J.H. Clarke
Plant and Soil
Vol. 225, No. 1/2 (2000), pp. 279-297
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42950865
Page Count: 19
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The effect of three or five years of set-aside on the husbandry and grain yield of subsequent cereal crops in the UK
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Abstract

During the period 1993-1997, at six contrasting sites located throughout England, two successive cereal test crops were grown both with and without nitrogen fertiliser after three or five years of set-aside or after continuous arable cropping. Vegetation during set-aside included natural regeneration and perennial rye-grass (Lolium perenne) with or without white clover (Trifolium repens), managed by mowing on one or more occasions per year. Establishment of the successive cereal test crops after destruction of the set-aside was generally not a problem. Fertile tiller numbers were increased by inclusion of clover in the set-aside cover or application of inorganic nitrogen. The presence of couch grass (Elytrigia repens) or volunteer cereals in the set-aside covers provided alternative hosts for take-all (Gaeumanomyces graminis) and eyespot (Pseudocercosporella herpotrichoides) and take-all caused some yield reductions in following cereal crops. Management during the set-aside period significantly affected grain yields of the subsequent cereal crops in the majority of the site-year combinations. However, these effects were not as large as would be expected after traditional break crops and were frequently masked by the application of nitrogen fertiliser. Mean yields increased by 80% due to the application nitrogen at the optimum rate compared to nil nitrogen. Most of the effects of set-aside treatment on grain yield were shown to be attributable to soil mineral nitrogen content, but at some sites, infections by take-all or eyespot also accounted for some of the variation. There were no effects of pests that could be related to treatment. The presence of sown clover during the set-aside period had the most consistent effect across sites, affecting tiller populations, grain yield and grain quality of cereal crops. At some sites, establishing a sown cover during the set-aside period, or cutting the cover more than once a year, improved grain yield and quality, and reduced the incidence of some specific weeds and disease.

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