Legume based plant mixtures for delivery of multiple ecosystem services: an overview of benefits

T. F. Doring, J. Storkey, J. A. Baddeley, O. Cowley, S. A. Howlett, H. Pearce, S. Roderick, H. E. Jones, Heather Mary McCalman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Proceeding (Non-Journal item)


As costs for mineral fertilizers rise, legume-based leys are recognised as a potential alternative nitrogen source for crops. Here we demonstrate that including species-rich legume-based leys in the rotation helps to maximize synergies between agricultural productivity and other ecosystem services. By using functionally diverse plant species mixtures these services can be optimised and fine-tuned to regional and farm-specific needs. Field experiments run over three years at multiple locations showed that the stability of ley performance was greater in multi-species mixtures than in legume monocultures. In addition, mixing different legume species in the ley helps to suppress both early and late weeds. Further, combining complementary phenologies of different legume species extended forage availability for key pollinator species. Finally, widening the range of legume species increases opportunities to build short term leys into rotations on conventional farms via cover cropping or undersowing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAgriculture and the Environment IX, Valuing Ecosystems: Policy, Economic and Management Interactions
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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