Productive and Ecological Aspects of Mixed Cropping System

A special issue of Agriculture (ISSN 2077-0472). This special issue belongs to the section "Agricultural Systems and Management".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2020) | Viewed by 35487

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Department of Agronomics, Faculty of Agriculture and Biotechnology, UTP University of Science and Technology, Kaliskiego Ave. 7,E,311, 85 796 Bydgoszcz, Poland
Interests: agricultural plant science; integrated cropping; weed management; experimental methods in agronomy
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Department of Agroecology and Crop Production, University of Agriculture in Kraków, 31-120 Kraków, Poland
Interests: allelopathy; weed biology and ecology; weed resistance to herbicides
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Mixed cropping, also known as inter-cropping or co-cultivation, is a type of plant production system that involves planting two or more species (or cultivars) simultaneously in the same field in a variable order—row or rowless. Mixed cropping plays an important role in sustainable agriculture by adding value to crop-rotations and agroecosystems. Complimentary use of environmental resources is provided by various species in a mixture in contrast to pure stands. Mixtures of cereals give higher yields of proteins, rich in essential amino acids, e.g., lysine. Mixtures of cereals and legumes provide valuable feed for livestock and play an essential role in promoting the biological activity of soils, especially by N fixation. They support the diversity of species in an agroecosystem, such as beneficial insects and diversity of weeds that may occur in a higher number of species, but below the economic thresholds. Still, the use of crop mixtures is not popular among farmers, particularly in a high input system. The key information on the economic costs of cultivation of mixed cropping is still missing. Scientific investigations on environmentally friendly mixed cropping should be supported by studies on the direct costs and long-term benefits that are most relevant to farmers.

Meeting the need to strengthen the scientific basis for mixed crops, we are ready to accept papers that enhance our understanding of the following:

  • Selection of species and cultivars for a mixed crop and also a choice of agricultural treatments that will secure a stable yield of mixtures
  • Inter- and intra- species competition of plants in a canopy
  • Ecological intensification approach and opportunities for maximizing crop performance and yield in the mixtures
  • Effects of mixed crops on crop-rotations
  • Short- and long-term ecosystem benefits of mixtures
  • Effects on pests and biodiversity of agroecosystems provided by mixtures
  • Economic aspects of adopting the mixtures in farms
  • The nutritive value of mixtures for livestock
  • Other topics related to the mixed cropping

Prof. Dr. Anna Wenda-Piesik
Dr. Agnieszka Synowiec
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • Sustainable agriculture
  • stability of yielding
  • quality of raw material
  • ecological intensification
  • ecosystem services
  • economic aspects of mixed cropping

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Editorial

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3 pages, 158 KiB  
Editorial
Productive and Ecological Aspects of Mixed Cropping System
by Anna Wenda-Piesik and Agnieszka Synowiec
Agriculture 2021, 11(5), 395; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11050395 - 27 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2073
Abstract
Mixed cropping, also known as inter-cropping, polyculture, or co-cultivation, is a type of plant production system that involves planting two or more species (or cultivars) simultaneously in the same field in a variable order (row or rowless) [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Productive and Ecological Aspects of Mixed Cropping System)

Research

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19 pages, 3130 KiB  
Article
The Performance of Oat-Vetch Mixtures in Organic and Conventional Farming Systems
by Katarzyna Pużyńska, Agnieszka Synowiec, Stanisław Pużyński, Jan Bocianowski, Kazimierz Klima and Andrzej Lepiarczyk
Agriculture 2021, 11(4), 332; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11040332 - 8 Apr 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2061
Abstract
The research aimed to compare the yields and yield components of mixtures of oats with common vetch grown for seeds in organic and conventional farming systems. Moreover, the selection of oat cultivars for the mixture and its performance in a crop rotation experiment [...] Read more.
The research aimed to compare the yields and yield components of mixtures of oats with common vetch grown for seeds in organic and conventional farming systems. Moreover, the selection of oat cultivars for the mixture and its performance in a crop rotation experiment in different growing years was analyzed. Additionally, the leaf area index (LAI) and the relative content of chlorophyll (SPAD) of the mixtures were assessed. The field experiment with four-field crop rotation in organic or conventional farming systems was carried out in 2012–2014 in southern Poland. Common vetch (Vicia sativa L., cv. ‘Hanka’) was mixed with one of two oat (Avena sativa L.) cultivars, ‘Celer’ or ‘Grajcar.’ The effects of all of the factors on the mixtures’ canopy indices and yield were found. The canonical analysis revealed that the weather course, especially drought, had the largest effect on the oat-vetch mixtures’ performance. Moreover, the mixtures developed the highest LAI (5.28 m2∙m−2) and seed yield (4.57 t ha−1) in the conventional farming system. On the contrary, the share of vetch seeds in the mixtures was 24% higher in the organic system than in the conventional one. The selection of cv. ‘Grajcar’ oats for the mixture with vetch increased the share of vetch seeds in the yield by 16.5%. In summary, a balanced share of oat-vetch mixture components depends on the proper selection of the oat cultivar, especially for organic farming systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Productive and Ecological Aspects of Mixed Cropping System)
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21 pages, 1394 KiB  
Article
Grain Yield and Total Protein Content of Organically Grown Oats–Vetch Mixtures Depending on Soil Type and Oats’ Cultivar
by Katarzyna Pużyńska, Stanisław Pużyński, Agnieszka Synowiec, Jan Bocianowski and Andrzej Lepiarczyk
Agriculture 2021, 11(1), 79; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11010079 - 18 Jan 2021
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 3072
Abstract
The yield and quality of crop mixtures depend on natural and agrotechnical factors and their relationships. This research aimed to analyze the grain yield, its components and total protein content of the organically grown oat–vetch mixture on two different soils and depending on [...] Read more.
The yield and quality of crop mixtures depend on natural and agrotechnical factors and their relationships. This research aimed to analyze the grain yield, its components and total protein content of the organically grown oat–vetch mixture on two different soils and depending on the oat cultivar. The three-year field experiment with two crop rotations was carried out. The experiment was set up in the southern Poland on two soils: Stagnic Luvisol (S.L.) and Haplic Cambisol (H.C.). One of four oat cultivars (‘Celer’, ‘Furman’, ‘Grajcar’ and ‘Kasztan’) was grown with the common vetch cv. ‘Hanka’. The results showed that the grain yield of mixtures was affected mainly by weather conditions. During the dry season, the share of vetch in the grain yield was 46% lower than in the season of regular rainfall. The share of vetch seeds in the mixture’s yield was ca. 21% higher when the mixtures were grown on the S.L. than the H.C. soil. The selection of oats’ cultivar for the mixture with vetch affected significantly the thousand seed mass and protein content in the vetch seeds, 46.2–50.4 g and 270–280 g kg−1, respectively. The mixture with Kasztan cultivar yielded the best and this oat cultivar seemed to be the most appropriate for organic conditions; however, in years with high variability of rainfall distribution its usefulness was less. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Productive and Ecological Aspects of Mixed Cropping System)
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27 pages, 4664 KiB  
Article
Row-Intercropping Maize (Zea mays L.) with Biodiversity-Enhancing Flowering-Partners—Effect on Plant Growth, Silage Yield, and Composition of Harvest Material
by Vanessa S. Schulz, Caroline Schumann, Sebastian Weisenburger, Maria Müller-Lindenlauf, Kerstin Stolzenburg and Kurt Möller
Agriculture 2020, 10(11), 524; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10110524 - 4 Nov 2020
Cited by 18 | Viewed by 4369
Abstract
Maize cultivation faces some challenges, particularly in terms of low biodiversity in fields. Since maize is a highly efficient and economic crop, it is cultivated on large areas in Germany, with a high share in crop rotation, especially where cattle farming takes place. [...] Read more.
Maize cultivation faces some challenges, particularly in terms of low biodiversity in fields. Since maize is a highly efficient and economic crop, it is cultivated on large areas in Germany, with a high share in crop rotation, especially where cattle farming takes place. Such landscapes provide less habitat and food resources for small vertebrates and arthropods. Intercropping maize with flowering partners might have a positive effect on the environment and might promote biodiversity in agricultural ecosystems. Therefore, in two-year field experiments on three sites in south-western Germany, plants were tested for their suitability as intercropping partners in maize crops (Medicago sativa, Melilotus officinalis, Vicia sativa, Tropaeolum majus, Cucurbita pepo, and Phaseolus vulgaris). Almost all tested partners produced flowers, except M. officinalis. Intercropping maize with P. vulgaris or T. majus achieved comparable dry matter yields as sole maize, without changes in the biomass quality. For maize-intercropping, site adapted weed control and practicable sowing technique are mandatory, which already exist for P. vulgaris and T. majus. The study shows that intercropping maize with biodiversity-enhancing flowering partners can provide an applicable alternative to sole maize cropping and enhance biodiversity. The large production areas of maize have great potential for ecological improvements in agriculture. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Productive and Ecological Aspects of Mixed Cropping System)
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13 pages, 244 KiB  
Article
Evaluation of the Productivity of New Spring Cereal Mixture to Optimize Cultivation under Different Soil Conditions
by Danuta Leszczyńska, Agnieszka Klimek-Kopyra and Krzysztof Patkowski
Agriculture 2020, 10(8), 344; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10080344 - 9 Aug 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 2574
Abstract
The aim of the study was to evaluate grain yields, protein yields, and net metabolic energy yields of different combinations of spring types of barley, oat, and wheat arranged in 10 mixtures and grown under different soil types. Naked cultivars of barley and [...] Read more.
The aim of the study was to evaluate grain yields, protein yields, and net metabolic energy yields of different combinations of spring types of barley, oat, and wheat arranged in 10 mixtures and grown under different soil types. Naked cultivars of barley and oat were used. The three-year field experiment was conducted at the Agricultural Advisory Centre in Szepietowo, Poland. The study showed that the major factor determining yields of the mixtures was soil quality. Within the better soil (Albic Luvisols), the highest yield was achieved by a mixture of covered barley and wheat and by a mixture of covered barley with covered oats and wheat, but only in treatments with lower sowing density. Moreover, on the better soil, significantly higher protein yields were obtained for mixtures of barley (covered or naked grains) with wheat as compared to the mixture of covered barley with covered oats, or the mixture of covered barley with naked oats and wheat. The highest yields of net metabolic energy, regardless of soil type, were obtained from a mixture of naked barley with wheat, while the lowest from a mixture of covered barley with naked oats and wheat. Mixed sowings increase biodiversity of canopies, which allows a better use of production space. They also increase health and the productivity of plants. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Productive and Ecological Aspects of Mixed Cropping System)
13 pages, 418 KiB  
Article
Phosphorus in Spring Barley and Italian Rye-Grass Biomass as an Effect of Inter-Species Interactions under Water Deficit
by Marta K. Kostrzewska, Magdalena Jastrzębska, Kinga Treder and Maria Wanic
Agriculture 2020, 10(8), 329; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10080329 - 5 Aug 2020
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2379
Abstract
With global warming, the problem of soil water deficit is growing in Central Europe, including Poland, and the use of catch crops is recommended to mitigate climate changes. This study aimed to determine the influence of water deficit on phosphorus (P) content and [...] Read more.
With global warming, the problem of soil water deficit is growing in Central Europe, including Poland, and the use of catch crops is recommended to mitigate climate changes. This study aimed to determine the influence of water deficit on phosphorus (P) content and accumulation in the above-ground biomass of spring barley and Italian rye-grass growing separately and in the mixture, and on the inter-species interactions between these crops. The study was based on a pot experiment established in accordance with the additive design. The experimental factors were as follows: A. water supply of the plants: an optimal dose and a dose reduced by 50% in relation to the optimal dose, and B. the sowing type: barley sown as a single species, rye-grass sown as a single species, and barley with rye-grass catch crop. Based on the P accumulation in plant biomass, the relative yield of barley and rye-grass, the total relative yield, and the competitive equilibrium index were determined. Water deficit had no effect on the P content in the plants, but it reduced the P accumulation in barley stems, leaves and spikes, as well as in rye-grass stems and leaves, from the emergence to the end of plants’ growing period, both when the plants were sown as a single species and as a mixture. Barley was a stronger competitor than rye-grass. Inter-species competition occurred at the stem elongation and heading of barley. The intensification of inter-species competition for P under water deficit conditions should be taken into account when recommending the undersowing of barley with rye-grass for sustainable agriculture. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Productive and Ecological Aspects of Mixed Cropping System)
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14 pages, 1845 KiB  
Article
Response of Yellow Lupine to the Proximity of Other Plants and Unplanted Path in Strip Intercropping
by Lech Gałęzewski, Iwona Jaskulska, Edward Wilczewski and Anna Wenda-Piesik
Agriculture 2020, 10(7), 285; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10070285 - 10 Jul 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2561
Abstract
Taking into account the climatic conditions of central Europe, yellow lupine is often considered as an alternative to soybean, which has significantly higher thermal requirements. Attempts to intercrop yellow lupine with cereals have often resulted in failure. In combined production, the relative amount [...] Read more.
Taking into account the climatic conditions of central Europe, yellow lupine is often considered as an alternative to soybean, which has significantly higher thermal requirements. Attempts to intercrop yellow lupine with cereals have often resulted in failure. In combined production, the relative amount of lupine has proven to be considerably smaller given the sowing mix proportions and its yield potential in pure stand. Low yield is attributed to lupine’s low competitive potential, therefore strip intercropping presents a viable alternative. The main goal of the experiment was to determine the response of yellow lupine to the neighboring presence of wheat, triticale, barley, and pea, as well as to estimate the production effects of lupine in strip intercropping. Field trials were carried out in Poland (53°13′ N; 17°51′ E) in the years 2008–2010. The experimental factor consisted of row layout: a four-row separation between lupine and the neighboring species. The proximity of cereals and peas proved to be most unfavorable to yellow lupine. It was determined that yellow lupine was most intolerant of barley and least affected by the proximity of peas. Depending on the neighboring species, adverse effects extended up to the third row of lupine’s canopy. A beneficial alternative for the production effect involves an introduction of a path separating the lupine strip from the tested species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Productive and Ecological Aspects of Mixed Cropping System)
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13 pages, 863 KiB  
Article
Farmers’ Perception and Evaluation of Brachiaria Grass (Brachiaria spp.) Genotypes for Smallholder Cereal-Livestock Production in East Africa
by Duncan Cheruiyot, Charles A.O. Midega, Jimmy O. Pittchar, John A. Pickett and Zeyaur R. Khan
Agriculture 2020, 10(7), 268; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10070268 - 4 Jul 2020
Cited by 17 | Viewed by 3995
Abstract
Brachiaria (Urochloa) is a genus, common name brachiaria, of forage grasses that is increasingly transforming integrated crop-livestock production systems in East Africa. A study was undertaken to (i) assess smallholder farmers’ perception on benefits of brachiaria in cereal-livestock production, (ii) identify [...] Read more.
Brachiaria (Urochloa) is a genus, common name brachiaria, of forage grasses that is increasingly transforming integrated crop-livestock production systems in East Africa. A study was undertaken to (i) assess smallholder farmers’ perception on benefits of brachiaria in cereal-livestock production, (ii) identify brachiaria production constraints, and (iii) identify farmer preferred brachiaria genotypes. A multi-stage sampling technique was adopted for sample selection. Data were collected through semi-structured individual questionnaire and focus group discussions (FGDs). The study areas included Bondo, Siaya, Homabay and Mbita sub-counties in Western Kenya and the Lake zone of Tanzania. A total of 223 farmers participated in individual response questionnaires while 80 farmers participated in the FGDs. The respondents considered brachiaria mainly important in management of cereal pests (70.4% of respondents) and as an important fodder (60.8%). The major production constraint perceived by both male and female respondents is attacks by arthropods pests (49.2% and 63%, respectively). Spider smites had been observed on own farms by 50.8% of men and 63.1% of women, while sorghum shoot flies had been observed by 58.1% of men and 67.9% of women. These pests were rated as a moderate to severe problem. Xaraes was the most preferred genotype, followed by Mulato II and Piata. These genotypes are important in developing new crop pest management strategies, such as push-pull, and for relatively rapid improvements in crop management and yield increases, particularly in developing countries. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Productive and Ecological Aspects of Mixed Cropping System)
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13 pages, 280 KiB  
Article
Long-Term Productive, Competitive, and Economic Aspects of Spring Cereal Mixtures in Integrated and Organic Crop Rotations
by Kazimierz Klima, Agnieszka Synowiec, Joanna Puła, Maciej Chowaniak, Katarzyna Pużyńska, Dorota Gala-Czekaj, Angelika Kliszcz, Patryk Galbas, Beata Jop, Teresa Dąbkowska and Andrzej Lepiarczyk
Agriculture 2020, 10(6), 231; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture10060231 - 15 Jun 2020
Cited by 10 | Viewed by 3254
Abstract
Cultivation of spring cereal mixtures (SCMs) is one of the ways to increase the yield of crops in mountainous areas of Poland. There are only a few current long-term studies on this topic. Our study aimed at analyzing yield and competitiveness as well [...] Read more.
Cultivation of spring cereal mixtures (SCMs) is one of the ways to increase the yield of crops in mountainous areas of Poland. There are only a few current long-term studies on this topic. Our study aimed at analyzing yield and competitiveness as well as the economic indicators of spring cereals in pure or mixed sowings in integrated or organic crop rotations over nine years. A field experiment including pure sowings of oats, spring barley, or spring triticale and their two-component SCMs, each in two systems, organic and integrated crop rotation, was carried out in the Mountainous Experimental Station in Czyrna, Poland, in the years 2011–2019. On average, cereals in the pure sowings and mixtures yielded 18% lower in the organic rotations compared with the integrated ones. However, SCMs yielded higher than the pure sowings, and displayed a higher leaf area index and land equivalent ratio. The average gross margin without subsidies was almost two times higher in the organic crop rotations than in the integrated ones, which was influenced mainly by the cultivation of barley in pure sowing. Summing up, the cultivation of SCMs in the mountainous areas of southern Poland is advised because of both productive and economic factors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Productive and Ecological Aspects of Mixed Cropping System)

Review

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14 pages, 623 KiB  
Review
Diversity of Species and the Occurrence and Development of a Specialized Pest Population—A Review Article
by Anna Wenda-Piesik and Dariusz Piesik
Agriculture 2021, 11(1), 16; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11010016 - 28 Dec 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3492
Abstract
The trophic interactions between plants and herbivorous insects are considered to be one of the primary relationships in the occurrence and development of specialized pest populations. Starting from the role of multicropping and the types of mixtures through the ecological benefits of intercropped [...] Read more.
The trophic interactions between plants and herbivorous insects are considered to be one of the primary relationships in the occurrence and development of specialized pest populations. Starting from the role of multicropping and the types of mixtures through the ecological benefits of intercropped plants, we explain the ecological conditions that contribute to the occurrence of pest populations. The dynamics of pest populations in crop occur in stages with the survival and development of pest in source of origin, invasion and distribution in crops, development and survival of the population, emigration to the another crop and (or) change of habitat. Possible effects of each stages are described based on the camouflage of visual effects, olfactory effects and reversal of feeding preferences. Fundamental theories of natural enemies and concentration of food resources have been explained to refer to the empirical data. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Productive and Ecological Aspects of Mixed Cropping System)
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