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Legacy effects of temporary grassland in annual crop rotation on soil ecosystem services

The introduction of temporary grassland into an annual crop rotation is recognized to improve soil ecosystem services, and resulting legacies can be beneficial for the following crops. In this context, the aim of the present study was to evaluate legacy effects of introducing temporary grassland into an annual crop rotation on five eco-system services (i) soil structure maintenance (aggregate stability), (ii) water regulation (saturated hydraulic conductivity), (iii) biodiversity conservation (microbial biomass and microbial metabolic activity, as well as microorganism, enchytraeid, springtail and earthworm communities), (iv) pathogen regulation (soil suppressiveness to Verticillium dahliae), and (v) forage production and quality. Three crop rotation schemes, maintained for twelve years, were compared in four random blocks, one being an annual crop rotation without grassland (0%), another with a medium percentage of grassland (50%, corresponding to 3 years of continuous grassland in the crop rotation), and a third one with a high percentage of grassland in the crop rotation (75%, correspondingto 6 years of continuous grassland in the crop rotation). The results showed that the grassland introduction into an annual crop rotation improved, whatever the duration of the grassland, soil structure maintenance and biodiversity conservation, while it decreased pathogen regulation and did not modify water regulation. Comparing the two crop rotations that included grassland, indicated a stronger beneficial grassland legacy effect for the higher proportion of grassland concerning soil structure maintenance and biodiversity conservation. By contrast, water regulation, pathogen regulation and forage production were not affected by the legacy of the 75% grassland during the rotation. Overall, our findings demonstrated the extent to which grassland legacies are affecting the current state of soil properties and possible ecosystem services provided. To improve ecosystem services, soil management should take legacy effects into account and consider longer timeframes to apply beneficial practices.



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