Diversity-ecosystem function relationship in mixed forage crops
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Monocultures and three species mixtures containing a grass (Festuca arundinacea), a legume (Medicago sativa) and a forb (Cichorium intybus) were sown in order to test the effects of diversity on forage swards. Yield, LAI (Leaf Area Index), leaching and stability indicators were determined as a function of sown species identity and diversity effects. Yield and LAI were higher in mixed swards than in monocultures. A diversity effect was found for both variables, with values in mixtures above that expected from the proportions of the sown species. There was a seasonal substitution of species dominance, thus maintaining overall total yield. As a result, mixtures showed higher stability than monocultures. On the other hand, we found a negative effect of total biomass on leaching, but this trend was not consistent across the 6 studied harvests.