Intercropping Systems for Sustainable Agriculture

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 October 2021) | Viewed by 25839

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, Marche Polytechnic University, Piazza Roma 22, 60121 Ancona, Italy
Interests: intercropping cereals and grain legumes within locally integrated food or feed production chains; barley; emmer wheat; durum wheat; bread wheat (old and modern varieties); fababean; pea; lentil

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Guest Editor
Department of Crop Production Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Ekologicentrum, Ulls väg 16, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden
Interests: biodiversity; agriculture; plant physiology; plant biology; plant ecology; biodiversity and conservation; plant biodiversity; crop physiology; biomass; nitrogen; seedling; abiotic stress; crop; ecophysiology; ecosystem services; photosynthesis and bioenergy; energy crops; water use efficiency; nutrient use efficiency

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Guest Editor
Research Group: Agricultural Systems at Department of Agricultural Production, School of Agricultural Engineering, Food Technology and Biosystems (ETSIAAB), and Research Centre for the Management of Agricultural and Environmental Risks (CEIGRAM), Technical University of Madrid (UPM), 28040 Madrid, Spain
Interests: agronomy; crop physiology; cropping systems; rainfed agriculture; water use efficiency; legumes; climate change impact and adaptation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Increasing agriculture sustainability is an imperative target for whole food and feed production and transformation chains. For this purpose, considerable attention has been paid to the important contribution of intercropping systems to increasing and exploiting biodiversity, reducing the use of fertilizers and agrichemicals, facing climate change, and supporting low-input and organic agricultural systems in this transition. However, for the implementation of intercropping into agricultural systems that are mainly based on monocrops, stakeholders need scientific and technical support to apply an agroecological approach to the whole food and feed chain. Moreover, pedo-climatic differences, agricultural and food systems, and consumer habits change between different countries. Therefore, differentiated strategies must be developed to progress the whole system toward more environmentally friendly and healthy agriculture. Within this overall target, intercropping seems to be essential.

This Special Issue will promote the subject of intercropping and gather the most recent scientific knowledge on this subject. Research articles will cover all topics related to intercropping such as agroecology, agronomy, plant physiology, genetics, plant pathology and entomology, green economy, and food and feed science.

Prof. Stefano Tavoletti
Prof. Martin Weih
Prof. Dr. M. Inés Mínguez
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • intercropping
  • crop diversification
  • biodiversity
  • interspecific interaction
  • intraspecific interaction
  • sustainable agriculture
  • organic farming
  • low-input agriculture
  • agroecology

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Editorial

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4 pages, 188 KiB  
Editorial
Intercropping Systems for Sustainable Agriculture
by Martin Weih, M. Inés Mínguez and Stefano Tavoletti
Agriculture 2022, 12(2), 291; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture12020291 - 17 Feb 2022
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3194
Abstract
Increasing sustainability in agriculture is an imperative target for whole food and feed production and transformation chains [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Intercropping Systems for Sustainable Agriculture)

Research

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16 pages, 1042 KiB  
Article
Yield, Economic Benefit, Soil Water Balance, and Water Use Efficiency of Intercropped Maize/Potato in Responses to Mulching Practices on the Semiarid Loess Plateau
by Junhong Xie, Linlin Wang, Lingling Li, Sumera Anwar, Zhuzhu Luo, Effah Zechariah and Setor Kwami Fudjoe
Agriculture 2021, 11(11), 1100; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11111100 - 04 Nov 2021
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 2814
Abstract
Increasing agricultural productivity without undermining further the integrity of the Earth’s environmental systems such as soil water balance are important tasks to ensure food security for an increasing global population in rainfed agriculture. The impact of intercropping maize (Zea mays L.) with [...] Read more.
Increasing agricultural productivity without undermining further the integrity of the Earth’s environmental systems such as soil water balance are important tasks to ensure food security for an increasing global population in rainfed agriculture. The impact of intercropping maize (Zea mays L.) with potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) on yield, land equivalent ratios (LER), water equivalent ratio (WER), water use, energy output, and net economic return were examined under seven planting systems: potato grown solely or intercropped on the flat field without mulching, maize grown solely or intercropped with potato on ridges or flat field with or without plastic film mulched. The three intercropping systems had 3–13% less water use than the monocropping. Among the intercropped systems, flat field caused more depletion of soil water than ridged field for both years. Compared to monocultures, intercropping with plastic film mulching and ridging significantly increased LER and WER. Meanwhile, intercropping with mulching and ridging significantly increased net economic return and energy output by 8% and 24%, respectively, when compared to monocropping. These results suggest that maize under plastic film mulched ridge-furrow plot intercropped with potato under flat plot without mulching increased energy output, net economic return, and water use efficiency without increasing soil water depletion, which could be an optimal intercropping system for the semiarid farmland on the western Loess Plateau. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Intercropping Systems for Sustainable Agriculture)
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13 pages, 993 KiB  
Article
Signal Grass Deferred Pastures Fertilized with Nitrogen or Intercropped with Calopo
by Carla Silva Chaves, Karina Guimarães Ribeiro, Odilon Gomes Pereira, Dilermando Miranda da Fonseca, Paulo Roberto Cecon and Carlos Augusto de Miranda Gomide
Agriculture 2021, 11(9), 804; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11090804 - 24 Aug 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1896
Abstract
This study aimed to evaluate the accumulation, structural characteristics, and chemical composition of deferred signal-grass pastures that were subjected to four treatments: without nitrogen fertilization, intercropped with calopo (Calopogonium mucunoides), and fertilized with urea N (50 kg ha−1 and 100 [...] Read more.
This study aimed to evaluate the accumulation, structural characteristics, and chemical composition of deferred signal-grass pastures that were subjected to four treatments: without nitrogen fertilization, intercropped with calopo (Calopogonium mucunoides), and fertilized with urea N (50 kg ha−1 and 100 kg ha−1) for 2 years. The design was in randomized blocks, with two blocks and two repetitions of each treatment per block. There were effects of the interaction between treatment and year on green dry mass, forage accumulation, density of vegetative tillers, and crude protein content (simulated grazing). The effects of the treatments on the height, falling index, green dry mass/dead dry mass ratio, number of dead, live and total tillers, and crude protein content (direct cutting) were also observed. Signal-grass–calopo-intercropping ensured adequate mass and forage accumulation and crude protein content equivalent to those of fertilized pastures. In addition, the intercropped pasture showed a higher percentage of leaves and a higher crude protein content compared with those for the other treatments (simulated grazing). The green dry mass/dead dry mass ratio was highest in the intercropped pasture and was equivalent to only that of the pasture fertilized with a low dose of nitrogen. Therefore, signal-grass–calopo-intercropping may be recommended for deferment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Intercropping Systems for Sustainable Agriculture)
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13 pages, 238 KiB  
Article
Soybean Relative Maturity, Not Row Spacing, Affected Interseeded Cover Crops Biomass
by Hans J. Kandel, Dulan P. Samarappuli, Kory L. Johnson and Marisol T. Berti
Agriculture 2021, 11(5), 441; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11050441 - 13 May 2021
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2579
Abstract
Adoption of cover crop interseeding in the northwestern Corn Belt in the USA is limited due to inadequate fall moisture for establishment, short growing season, additional costs, and need for adapted winter-hardy species. This study evaluated three cover crop treatments—no cover crop, winter [...] Read more.
Adoption of cover crop interseeding in the northwestern Corn Belt in the USA is limited due to inadequate fall moisture for establishment, short growing season, additional costs, and need for adapted winter-hardy species. This study evaluated three cover crop treatments—no cover crop, winter rye (Secale cereale L.), and winter camelina (Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz)—which were interseeded at the R6 soybean growth stage, using two different soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.) maturity groups (0.5 vs. 0.9) and two row spacings (30.5 vs. 61 cm). The objective was to evaluate these treatments on cover crop biomass, soil cover, plant density, and soybean yield. Spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) grain yield was also measured the following year. The early-maturing soybean cultivar (0.5 maturity) resulted in increased cover crop biomass and soil cover, with winter rye outperforming winter camelina. However, the early-maturing soybean yielded 2308 kg·ha−1, significantly less compared with the later maturing cultivar (2445 kg·ha−1). Narrow row spacing had higher soybean yield, but row spacing did not affect cover crop growth. Spring wheat should not follow winter rye if rye is terminated right before seeding the wheat. However, wheat planted after winter camelina was no different than when no cover crop was interseeded in soybean. Interseeding cover crops into established soybean is possible, however, cover crop biomass accumulation and soil cover are limited. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Intercropping Systems for Sustainable Agriculture)
18 pages, 3100 KiB  
Article
Grain Yield Stability of Cereal-Legume Intercrops Is Greater Than Sole Crops in More Productive Conditions
by Martin Weih, Alison J. Karley, Adrian C. Newton, Lars P. Kiær, Christoph Scherber, Diego Rubiales, Eveline Adam, James Ajal, Jana Brandmeier, Silvia Pappagallo, Angel Villegas-Fernández, Moritz Reckling and Stefano Tavoletti
Agriculture 2021, 11(3), 255; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11030255 - 17 Mar 2021
Cited by 30 | Viewed by 5556
Abstract
The intercropping of two or more crop species on the same piece of land at a given time has been hypothesized to enhance crop yield stability. To address this hypothesis, we assessed the grain yield stability of various barley-pea and wheat-faba bean mixtures [...] Read more.
The intercropping of two or more crop species on the same piece of land at a given time has been hypothesized to enhance crop yield stability. To address this hypothesis, we assessed the grain yield stability of various barley-pea and wheat-faba bean mixtures grown in seven experimental field trials (locations) across Europe during two years with contrasting weather (2017 and 2018). Three different yield stability measures were used, all based on the expected yield variability of the mixture components grown as sole crops, and the corresponding observed yield variability of the same components grown in 50:50 mixtures in a replacement design. Stability indices were calculated as ratios between the expected and observed variabilities, with values > 1 indicating greater stability of the intercrops. Mean grain yields tended to be higher in intercrops than sole crops. However, in contrast to our hypothesis, the observed (intercrop) yield stability was similar or lower than the expected (sole crop) stability in most locations except one. Furthermore, yield stability significantly increased with increasing mean yields when assessed across differentially productive locations. The results are relevant for the designing of intercropping systems as a means to increase yield stability and the resilience of cropping systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Intercropping Systems for Sustainable Agriculture)
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Review

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20 pages, 1105 KiB  
Review
Intercropping—Evaluating the Advantages to Broadacre Systems
by Uttam Khanal, Kerry J. Stott, Roger Armstrong, James G. Nuttall, Frank Henry, Brendan P. Christy, Meredith Mitchell, Penny A. Riffkin, Ashley J. Wallace, Malcolm McCaskill, Thabo Thayalakumaran and Garry J. O’Leary
Agriculture 2021, 11(5), 453; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture11050453 - 17 May 2021
Cited by 24 | Viewed by 7767
Abstract
Intercropping is considered by its advocates to be a sustainable, environmentally sound, and economically advantageous cropping system. Intercropping systems are complex, with non-uniform competition between the component species within the cropping cycle, typically leading to unequal relative yields making evaluation difficult. This paper [...] Read more.
Intercropping is considered by its advocates to be a sustainable, environmentally sound, and economically advantageous cropping system. Intercropping systems are complex, with non-uniform competition between the component species within the cropping cycle, typically leading to unequal relative yields making evaluation difficult. This paper is a review of the main existing metrics used in the scientific literature to assess intercropping systems. Their strengths and limitations are discussed. Robust metrics for characterising intercropping systems are proposed. A major limitation is that current metrics assume the same management level between intercropping and monocropping systems and do not consider differences in costs of production. Another drawback is that they assume the component crops in the mixture are of equal value. Moreover, in employing metrics, many studies have considered direct and private costs and benefits only, ignoring indirect and social costs and benefits of intercropping systems per se. Furthermore, production risk and growers’ risk preferences were often overlooked. In evaluating intercropping advantage using data from field trials, four metrics are recommended that collectively take into account all important differences in private costs and benefits between intercropping and monocropping systems, specifically the Land Equivalent Ratio, Yield Ratio, Value Ratio and Net Gross Margin. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Intercropping Systems for Sustainable Agriculture)
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