11 Multi Actor Platforms on Mixed Cropping in the EU: Technical and Socio-Economic experiences

Abco de Buck, Henrik Hauggaard-Nielsen, Marie-Helene Jeuffroy, Søren Lund

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearch


Growing crop mixtures is a way to increase within field diversity with specific crop combinations practiced to serve specific system functions and services matching the specific local farm production system practised under certain pedo-climatic conditions. Despite numerous and convincing evidence on the potential for mixed cropping (e.g. better combined yields and product quality, risk mitigation and resilience to biotic and abiotic stresses), mixed cropping is hardly practiced in modern arable crop production. In 11 Multi Actor Platforms (MAPs) across Europe crop combinations have been co-designed to fit the needs of the users. This resulted in a wide variation of crop mixtures tested on research stations and on real farms based upon participatory approaches combining local knowledge with research-based universalistic knowledge (Meynard et al. 2012). In that way key solutions for achieving best possible impacts on local practise is optained.   Most challenging was the production for market purpose of mixed cereal-legume grain crops, due to the current large-scale infrastructure and logistics as well as uniform food supply chains. For farming under low-input conditions, crop mixtures were designed to stabilize margin; c.f. secure grain production in case one crop fails or reduce legume lodging. In other MAPs, crop mixtures were specifically designed to increase soil quality, biotic activity and nitrogen in the system and to control weeds, pests or diseases. Protein production by mixed cropping to become less dependent on soy imports for feed is stimulated by governments or is taken up by livestock-farmers to avoid the high on-farm prices for protein feed.

On-farm services of mixed cropping are particularly valuable under low-input conditions e.g. in marginal pedo-climatic zones or under organic management. However, in the MAPs, the value of these mixtures for high-input, conventional farming systems was evident as well, e.g. to produce feed protein, to mitigate soil depletion or to control pests and diseases reducing pesticide needs (and costs).

The MAPs have proven to be a useful learning environment to share experiences, to combine experiments on-station and on-farm, and to solve practical issues directly together with the users (along the value chain). Moreover, it served as a meeting platform for business partners to develop and disseminate innovations in the field of crop diversification. Next to the case-specific services that mixed cropping fulfill, the success depends on the involvement, experience and entrepreneurial spirit of the actors and the infrastructure of knowledge, institutions and business.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date19 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2021
EventIntercropping for sustainability. Research developments and their application: A three day Virtual conference - Online
Duration: 18 Jan 202120 Jan 2021


ConferenceIntercropping for sustainability. Research developments and their application
OtherIncreasing diversity within agricultural systems by intercropping offers a realistic and practical opportunity to enhance and stabilise crop yields and produce food, feed and fuel with fewer inputs. As environmental conditions become more variable, diversifying cropping systems can also reduce production risks. The Horizon 2020-funded projects<br/>DIVERSify and ReMIX, alongside other projects, are conducting research trials as well as working with farmers and other agricultural stakeholders across Europe and internationally to design, test and provide practical solutions for multi-species intercropping. It is timely to bring together the intercropping community to showcase the latest findings on intercropping research from the lab and the field and encourage debate on uptake and best practice.<br/>DIVERSify and ReMIX are working with other Horizon 2020-funded projects in the Crop Diversification Cluster to transfer project findings to scientists, farmers, advisers, industry and policy makers (see www.cropdiversification.eu for information about other joint events).
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  • Intercropping
  • participatory research
  • farmers
  • Diversification
  • implementation

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