#RotationOfCrops; #PlantPests; #SwitchingOfEnvironment
Germany, Jan 16 (Canadian-Media): A new computational model presented by Maria Bargués-Ribera and Chaitanya Gokhale of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Germany in PLOS Computational Biology shows how different patterns of crop rotation—planting different crops at different times in the same field—can impact long-term yield when plant pathogens threaten the crops, media reports said.
Crops being managed in crop rotation. Credit: USDA NRCS Texas
The threat posed to agriculture worldwide by the continual evolution of plant pathogens can be minimized by crop rotation which improves pest control and soil quality. Yet another solution, pointed by other research is switching the environment in which a pathogen grows to limit its reproduction and change its evolution. However, these two concepts have been rarely studied together from an evolutionary point of view.
A computational model of the technique integrating evolutionary theory was developed by Bargués-Ribera and Gokhale to investigate a scenario in which cash crops (grown for profit) and cover crops (grown to benefit soil) are alternated, but are affected by a pathogen that only attacks the cash crops and this leads to a better understanding of how crop rotation can protect against pests.
It was also identified by this analysis that the patterns of crop rotation which maximize crop yield over multiple decades under the given scenario showed that regular rotations every other year may not be beneficial. The suggestions of the findings are that the long-term outcome of crop rotation depends on its ability to both maintain soil quality and diminish pathogen load during harvesting seasons.
"Our model is an example of how evolutionary theory can complement farmers' knowledge," Bargués-Ribera says. "In a world with ever increasing food demand, ecological and evolutionary principles can be leveraged to design strategies making agriculture efficient and sustainable."
The new model could be applied in the future research to specific species to assess crop rotation patterns for specific crops and their pests. The model could also be used to help study the combined effects of crop rotation with other pest control techniques, such as fungicides and use of crops that have been genetically modified for pest resistance.