Diseases caused by soilborne pathogens are a major limitation to field grown nursery production. The application of cover crops for soilborne disease management has not been widely investigated in a woody ornamental nursery production system. The objective of a new study was to explore the impact of winter cover crops usage on soilborne disease management in that system.
Soils from established field plots of red maple (Acer rubrum L.) with and without winter cover crops (crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.) or triticale (× Triticosecale W.)) were sampled following the senescence of the cover crops. Separate bioassays were performed using red maple cuttings on inoculated (with Phytopythium vexans, Phytophthora nicotianae or Rhizoctonia solani) and non-inoculated field soils.
The results indicated that winter cover crop usage was helpful for inducing soil disease suppressiveness. There was lower disease severity and pathogen recovery when the cover crops were used compare to the non-cover cropped soil. However, there were no differences in maple plant fresh weight and root weight between the treatments. The rhizosphere pseudomonad microbial population was also greater when the cover crops were used.
Similarly, the C:N ratio of the soil was improved with the cover crop usage. Thus, in addition to improving soil structure and reducing erosion, cover crops can provide improved management of soilborne diseases. Therefore, stakeholders can consider cover crop usage as an alternative sustainable management tool against soilborne diseases in field nursery production system.