The OSCAR Project

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OSCAR: a collaborative European research project to develop more sustainable systems of conservation agriculture and increase the diversity of cover crops and living mulches


OSCAR is a collaborative research project in agronomy, supported by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research. OSCAR involves 20 Partners from 9 European countries, plus Morocco and Brazil as well as the international research centre ICARDA. The research programme started in April 2012 and ends in 2016.

The project aims to develop improved conservation tillage systems, based on subsidiary crops (also known as cover crops), used both as living and dead mulch, that :

- increase the duration of soil coverage by plant canopies;

- minimize the need for soil tillage and reduce tillage intensity;

- increase the diversity of species within the plant canopy and the rotation;

- reduce the need for fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides; and

- in dry climates, conserve water and reduce need for irrigation.

OSCAR studies the key factors that influence the success of cover cropping systems, including cultivation methods, machinery and suitable plant genotypes. The research aims to develop targeted systems for the varied economic and ecological conditions in Europe and in the non-European participating countries. OSCAR assesses the ecological and economic impacts of the new cropping systems in both organic and conventional agriculture.

The core of the experimental programme is a set of coordinated field trials in 12 different environments, ranging from boreal climates in North Europe to Mediterranean and tropical subhumid climates.

The main output of the project will be a comprehensive, publicly available knowledge base (Cover Crop and Living Mulch Toolbox), which will contain many user interactive elements and will be further developed after termination of the project.

Prof. Maria Finckh (project coordinator) talks on the benefits of cover crops at IAPAR, Brazil

Alsike clover