Biological control in lucerne crops can negatively affect the development of root morphology, forage yield and quality
Root diseases of lucerne (Medicago sativa L.) play a significant role in reducing the persistence and productivity of stands; however, the potential of using biological control in lucerne crops has not yet been investigated. Our objectives were to determine the effect of biological crop protection on (i) lucerne plant density and root traits development and (ii) lucerne forage yield and nutritive value in a two-year field experiment. The lucerne stand was managed under three treatments of disease control: an untreated control and spraying with either Albit (hydrolysate of microorganisms containing microelements and poly-beta-hydroxy butyric acid) or Polyversum (mycoparasitic Pythium oligandrum) under five-cut utilization. Application of Albit resulted in a negative yield response, associated with a reduction of root branching, and it also reduced crude protein and increased crude fibre and water-soluble carbohydrates in the second cut of the first year of the experiment. Polyversum increased the percentage of infected plants relative to the control in the last year of the experiment. The study highlights that biological control of lucerne under field conditions may not always be beneficial because of the complex interactions between plant, biological preparation, and environment.
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