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New model shows how crop rotation helps combat plant pests

New model shows how crop rotation helps combat plant pests
A new computational model shows how different patterns of crop rotation—planting different crops at different times in the same field—can impact long-term yield when the crops are threatened by plant pathogens. Maria Bargués-Ribera and Chaitanya Gokhale of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Germany present the model in PLOS Computational Biology.
The continual evolution of plant pathogens poses a threat to agriculture worldwide. Previous research has shown that crop rotation can help improve pest control and soil quality. Other research shows that switching the environment in which a pathogen grows can limit its reproduction and change its evolution. However, these two concepts have been rarely studied together from an evolutionary point of view.
To better understand how crop rotation can protect against pests, Bargués-Ribera and Gokhale developed a computational model of the technique that integrates evolutionary theory. They used the model to investigate a scenario in which cash crops (grown for profit) and cover crops (grown to benefit soil) are alternated, but are affected by a pathogen that only attacks the cash crops.
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