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Grain legume-cereal intercropping: the practical application of diversity, competition and facilitation in arable and organic cropping systems

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  • Henrik Hauggaard-Nielsen
  • Bjarne Jørnsgård
  • Julia Kinane
  • Erik Steen Jensen
Intercropping is the simultaneous cultivation of more than one crop species on the same piece of land and is regarded as the practical application of basic ecological principles such as diversity, competition and facilitation. Field experiments were carried out on a sandy loam soil and a sandy soil in Denmark over three consecutive cropping seasons including dual grain legume (pea, faba bean and lupin)-barley intercropping as compared to the respective sole crops (SC). Yield stability of intercrops (IC) was not greater than that of grain legume SC, with the exception of the IC containing faba bean. Faba bean and lupin had lower yield stability than pea and fertilized barley. However, the different IC used environmental resources for plant growth up to 50% (LER=0.91-1.51) more effectively as compared to the respective SC, but with considerable variation over location, years and crops. The SC performance supported the interspecific interactions within the IC stand. On the sandy loam 13% greater grain yield of pea cv. Agadir (520 g m-2) was observed as compared to cv. Bohatyr. Faba bean and lupin yielded similarly (340 g m-2) in the sandy loam soil, with decreasing yields on the sandy soil (320-270 g m-2). Nitrogen fixation was very constant in grain legume SC over species and location, varying from 13.2 to 15.8 g N m-2, being lowest in peas and highest in faba bean and lupin. The intercropped grain legumes increased the proportion of plant N derived from N2-fixation by on average 10-15% compared to the corresponding SC. However, especially lupin was suppressed when intercropping, with a reduced N2-fixation from 15 to 5-6 g N m-2. The IC were particularly effective at suppressing weeds, capturing a greater share of available resources than SC. Weed infestation in the different crops was comparable; however, it tended to be the highest in sole cropped faba bean, lupin and unfertilized barley, where the application of urea to barley reduced the weed infestation by around 50%. Reduction in disease was observed in all IC systems compared to the corresponding SC, with a general disease reduction in the range of 20-40%. For one disease in particular (brown spot on lupin) disease reduction was almost 80% in the IC. Intercropping practices offer many advantages but improved understanding of the ecological mechanisms associated with planned spatial diversity, including additional benefits with associated diversity, is needed to enhance the benefits achieved.
OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftRenewable Agriculture and Food Systems (Print Edition)
Vol/bind23
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)3-12
Antal sider10
ISSN1742-1705
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 2008

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