The experimental site of Case Study 2 (CS2) is located in Gabbioneta-Binanuova, near Cremona (Lombardy), Po Valley, Northern Italy. The regional agricultural production of Lombardy is the highest one in the country and, in the past few years, Lombardy’s government made investments to promote organic farming systems. However, farmers still need a farming system model to sustainably support their income and a common development view. In fact, current organic farming systems cause a reduction of soil quality and nutrient availability for plants, as well as a difficult weed control, thus leading to unsatisfactory yield and farmers’ income.
In CS2 different species of cover crops (as monocultures and mixtures) are tested to evaluate regenerative practice performances in terms of increased soil quality and crop productivity under organic farming (Figure 1). In particular, legumes cover crops may provide nitrogen input to the following cash crop, brassicas may improve soil physical quality and reduce nutrient percolation, and grasses may ensure a better control of weeds by competing for resources and releasing allelopathic substances into the soil. The field experiment started in autumn 2022 with the cover crop sowing (Figure 2), while the termination phase is foreseen for mid-April 2023. In this case study, novel indicators of soil microbiological quality, based on the analyses of functional genes involved in nutrient cycling and in plant-growth promoting traits, will be developed and applied.
Figure 1. Different cover crop species sown in the field experiment
Figure 2. Cover crop sowing phase