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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Introducing Perennial Grain in Grain Crops Rotation: The Role of Rooting Pattern in Soil Quality Management

Duchene, Olivier; Celette, Florian; Barreiro, Ana; Dimitrova Martensson, Linda-Maria; Freschet, Gregoire T.; David, Christophe


The use of the perennial grain intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium(Host) Barkworth & D.R. Dewey) may have the potential to sustain soil health and fertility through the development of an extensive root system. However, references are scarce to demonstrate its potential influence in a context of a limited perennial grain growth phase, integrated into annual grain crops succession. This study aims at determining how early a perennial crop rooting system differs from that of an annual crop through root development and root traits and microbial indicators. Our results indicate that the two-year-old intermediate wheatgrass promotes a denser and deeper rooting system with proportionally more root biomass and length deeper in the soil profile. From the first growing season, the perennial grain demonstrated a suite of root traits typical of a more resource-conservative strategy, and more belowground-oriented resource allocation. Soil fungal biomass indicators were enhanced. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) indicators were notably found to be improved at 1 m depth during the second growing season. This study provides evidence that grain-based agriculture can benefit from the potential of deeper and long-lived root systems of intermediate wheatgrass to manage soils. The periodic use of a short-term perennial phase in the crop rotation has the potential to improve soil functioning in the long term.


perennial grains; rooting system; root traits; soil microbial indicators; soil quality; arbuscular mycorrhiza; crops rotation

Published in

2020, Volume: 10, number: 9, article number: 1254
Publisher: MDPI

      SLU Authors

    • Associated SLU-program

      Future Agriculture (until Jan 2017)
      SLU Plant Protection Network

      Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG15 Life on land
      SDG2 Zero hunger
      SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Agricultural Science
      Soil Science

      Publication identifier


      Permanent link to this page (URI)