Intercropping is defined as the growth of two or more crops simultaneously in the same field during a growing season and is the practical application of ecological principles such as diversity, crop interaction and other natural regulation mechanisms. This technique has been found to have many advantages, mainly related to the complementary use of environmental resources by the component crops. Nitrogen fixing legumes can be included to a greater extent in arable cropping systems via intercrops. Legumes contribute to maintaining the soil fertility via nitrogen fixation.
Main project aims are to i) Identify benefits and obstacles for the use of intercropping of arable crops in the EU in order to resolve both the technical and socio-economic aspects; ii) Increase the knowledge on the multifunctional role of intercropping: production level and stability, resource use, environmental impacts, and product quality of intercrops and iii) To develop a simulation model for modelling grain legume-cereal intercrops. This can be used in the design of intercrops and strategic planning of cropping systems with intercrops.
Through identical joint experimentation using two intercrop designs (replacement and additive) on 5 different sites around Europe over three years is expected to result in unique mechanistic knowledge about interspecies competitive interactions. Increased appreciation of competition as a process could potentially enable us to develop intercropping systems that to a greater degree utilise the advantages of interactions between crop species.
INTERCROP involves a multidisciplinary consortium of 7 partners from 5 European countries: University of Reading, UK; Ecole Supérieure d’Agriculture d’Angers, France; Kassel University, Germany; INRA Avignon, France; Università “Mediterranea” di Reggio Calabria, Italy; Aarhus University, Denmark and DTU, Denmark