Grass Species as Living Mulches – Comparison of Weed Populations and Their Biodiversity in Apple Tree Rows and Tractor Alleys

Urszula Barbara Bałuszyńska, Magdalena Rowińska, Maria Licznar-Małańczuk


The durability of four grass living mulches, population of annual and perennial weeds, and their biodiversity in tree rows and tractor alleys were evaluated in the first 4 years after cover crop sowing. The experiment was established in a young semi-dwarf apple orchard 1 year after the planting of the tree ‘Chopin’ cv. Soil coverage was satisfactory for the three cover crops: red fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass. The sods of the grasses exhibited 100% soil surface cover in the tree rows and drive alleys, starting from 1 year after sowing to the end of the study period. Only the maintenance of the blue fescue resulted in low average soil development.

Annual and perennial weed populations were lower in the tree rows than in the drive alleys. It was determined meticulous and manual soil preparation prior to all grass sowing under tree crowns, followed by precise mowing of grasses and nitrogen fertilization in subsequent years. The highest soil surface cover by the total annual taxa was observed immediately after the emergence of the living mulch. Total perennial weed populations increased in the following vegetation seasons. Trifolium repens L. and Taraxacum offcinale (L.) Web. dominated all the grass living mulches evaluated. Only the red fescue sod effectively limited the infestation of perennial weed after 4 years of living mulch maintenance in the tree row. More than half of the annual and perennial weed taxa occurred sporadically in all living mulches. In both the tree rows and tractor alleys, the soil surface cover was not more than 1%, and these species contributed to the increase in orchard biodiversity.


apple orchard; cover crop; fescue; Kentucky bluegrass; ryegrass

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