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Journal Articles Basic and Applied Ecology Year : 2019

Impact of crop genetic diversity on a litter consumer


Belowground communities, and especially earthworms, provide numerous services in agroecosystems. In the current context of crop genetic erosion, this study aims at assessing the effect of wheat cultivar diversity on earthworm growth and survival. Our laboratory experiment was divided into two periods: (1) the “feeding period” (4 months), simulating conditions in autumn with cool temperatures and high food availability, and (2) the “non-feeding period” (1 month) simulating conditions in winter with cold temperatures and low food availability because litter had already been consumed without replacement. The aerial biomass of mixtures of wheat cultivars was used as food for earthworms and their growth was measured twice during the feeding period and once during the non-feeding period. We found two major effects on earthworm growth. Increasing the cultivar number (i) increased juvenile earthworm growth and earthworm survival and (ii) decreased adult earthworm growth. A consistent positive effect of nitrogen concentration of the biomass was found on growth and this effect was independent of biodiversity effects. This study suggests that the loss of litter intraspecific genetic diversity has an impact on earthworm populations, probably through mechanisms linked to the variance in edibility or the balanced diet hypotheses. While they remain to be tested in the field, these results suggest that the current losses of crop genetic diversity could potentially impact processes at the community or ecosystem level through a decrease in food quality.
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hal-02273148 , version 1 (28-08-2019)



Pierre Chassé, Céline Pelosi, Jean-Christophe Lata, Sébastien Barot. Impact of crop genetic diversity on a litter consumer. Basic and Applied Ecology, 2019, 36, pp.1-11. ⟨10.1016/j.baae.2019.02.002⟩. ⟨hal-02273148⟩
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