Synergy between Zeolites and Leguminous Cover Crops Improved Olive Tree Performance and Soil Properties in a Rainfed Olive Orchard uri icon


  • Soil degradation and climate change are threatening the sustainability of Mediterranean olive orchards, typically grown under rainfed conditions and conventional soil tillage. Thus, implementing sustainable soil management practices is crucial to preserve soil health and mitigate the negative effects on plant performance. In this study, we assessed the effects of conventional tillage (T), an early maturing and self-reseeding annual legume cover crop (LC) and its combination with natural zeolites (ZL) on plant physiological performance, tree nutritional status, crop yield, and soil physicochemical and microbiological properties. Although both LC and ZL enhanced the photosynthetic activity, tree nutritional status, soil moisture and olive yield relative to T, ZL was clearly more efficient at improving some soil health indicators, namely at the 0–10 cm soil layer, once soil acidity decreased and Kjeldahl N, extractable P and B, cation exchange capacity and microbiological activity increased, as evidenced by the higher concentrations of easily extractable and total glomalin-related soil protein, microbial biomass carbon, microbial biomass quotient, and actinomycetes. Therefore, using natural zeolite with leguminous cover crops appears to be a promising strategy of sustainable soil management in rainfed olive orchards, as it is able to provide numerous ecosystem services.
  • This research was funded by a doctoral fellowship under the Doctoral Program “Agricultural Production Chains—from fork to farm” (PD/00122/2012) provided by the FCT-Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology to S. Martins (PD/BD/135327/2017) and by the Operational Group “Novas práticas em olivais de sequeiro: estratégias de mitigação e adaptação às alterações climáticas”, funded by PT2020 and European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). The authors are grateful to the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT, Portugal) and FEDER under Program PT2020 for their financial support to CQ-VR (UIDB/00616/2020), CIMO (UIDB/00690/2020) and CITAB (UIDB/04033/2020) and also to the AgriFood XXI Project, No. NORTE-01-0145-FEDER- 000041, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the North Regional Operational (NORTE) Program 2014–2020.

publication date

  • October 2023