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Intercropping with native perennial plants protects soil of arable fields in semi-arid lands

Salah, Ayman M.A., Prasse, Rüdiger, Marschner, Bernd
Journal of arid environments 2016 v.130 pp. 1-13
Origanum syriacum, Salvia fruticosa, arable soils, arid lands, dry environmental conditions, filter strips, indigenous species, intercropping, perennials, runoff, semiarid zones, soil erosion, soil water, vegetation cover
Surface run-off and erosion are the major contributors to soil degradation worldwide. These processes are especially severe in regions with sparse vegetation cover. A 2-year experiment was set up along an aridity gradient in Al-Khalil, Palestine, to quantify soil loss and water loss from arable fields and to test for the mitigating effect of native perennial filter strips in arable fields. Three useful native plant species were chosen as intercrops: Majorana syriaca, Salvia fruticosa and Salvia hierosolymitana. The water and soil losses were experimentally measured in all the treatments. The results showed that considerable amounts of water (223–288 m3) and soil (3.2–5.6 ton ha−1) are lost from the fields. However, both total run-off and erosion were strongly reduced when the annual crop was intercropped with strips of native perennial plants (NPPs). The filter strips reduced the run-off by 34–89% and soil loss by 45–94%. This effect was more pronounced at the drier part of the studied sites and during the drier season. Our study implies that using filter strips of NPPs is a beneficial strategy for reducing run-off and soil erosion in the semi-arid regions of east Mediterranean.