Dias T., Dukes A. & Antunes P.M. (2015) Accounting for soil biotic effects on soil health and crop productivity in the design of crop rotations.Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 95(3), 447-454. DOI:10.1002/jsfa.6565 (IF2015 2,076; Q1 Agriculture, Multidisciplinary)
There is an urgent need for novel agronomic improvements capable of boosting crop yields while alleviating environmental impacts. One such approach is the use of optimized crop rotations. However, a set of measurements that can serve as guiding principles for the design of crop rotations is lacking. Crop rotations take advantage of niche complementarity, enabling the optimization of nutrient use and the reduction of pests and specialist pathogen loads. However, despite the recognized importance of plant–soil microbial interactions and feedbacks for crop yield and soil health, this is ignored in the selection and management of crops for rotation systems. We review the literature and propose criteria for the design of crop rotations focusing on the roles of soil biota and feedback on crop productivity and soil health. We consider that identifying specific key organisms or consortia capable of influencing plant productivity is more important as a predictor of soil health and crop productivity than assessing the overall soil microbial diversity per se. As such, we propose that setting up soil feedback studies and applying genetic sequencing tools towards the development of soil biotic community databases has a strong potential to enable the establishment of improved soil health indicators for optimized crop rotations.