Enhanced Yields in Organic Arable Crop Production by Eco-Functional Intensification using Intercropping

Erik Steen Jensen, Laurent Bedoussac, Georg Carlsson, Etienne-Pascal Journet, Eric Justes, Henrik Hauggaard-Nielsen

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    Organic agriculture (OA) faces challenges to enhance food production per unit area and simultaneously reduce the environmental and climate impacts, e.g. nitrate leaching per unit land and green-houses gases (GHG) emissions per kg product. Eco-functional intensification (EFI) is suggested as a means for enhancing yields in OA. EFI involves activating more knowledge and intensifying the beneficial effects of ecosystem functions, including agrobiodiversity (planned and associated) and soil fertility, and refocusing the importance of ecosystems services in agriculture. Organic farmers manage agrobiodiversity by planned crop diversification in time (crop rotation). However, cultivating genetically identical plants in OA sole crops (SC), limits resource use efficiency and yield per unit area. Intercropping (IC) of annual species or cultivars, perennial polycultures of forage or grain crops and agroforestry are examples of spatial crop diversification, which based on eco-functional intensification may enhance yield by the interspecies competitive production principle, only partly niche overlap and complementarity in resource use in time and space. Intercropping of species is based on the ecological principles of competition, facilitation and complementarity. We show that intercropping of cereals and grain legumes in European arable OA systems is an efficient tool for enhancing grain yields compared to the growing of sole crops. Simultaneously, we display how eco-functional intensification by intercropping can be used as an efficient tool for weed management, enhanced product quality (i.e. grain protein concentration of the intercropped cereal). We discuss how ICs contribute to efficient use of soil N sources and minimized losses of N by leaching via “ecological precision farming”. It is concluded, that crop diversification in space by intercropping, fitted into the organic crop rotation, has a strong potential to increase yield and hereby reduce the global environmental effects performance such as GHG per kg organic grain. Finally, we discuss likely barriers for increased use of intercropping in organic farming and suggest a roadmap for innovation and implementation of crop diversification by IC in organic agriculture
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalSustainable Agriculture Research
    Volume4
    Issue number3
    Number of pages8
    ISSN1927-050X
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    EventInnovations in Organic Food Systems for Sustainable Production & Enhanced Ecosystem Services - Renaissance Long Beach Hotel, Long Beach, California, United States
    Duration: 1 Nov 20142 Nov 2014
    http://icrofs.dk/en/research/conferences-and-workshops/innovations-in-organic-food-systems-for-sustainable-production-and-enhanced-ecosystem-services/ (Link to conference)

    Conference

    ConferenceInnovations in Organic Food Systems for Sustainable Production & Enhanced Ecosystem Services
    LocationRenaissance Long Beach Hotel
    CountryUnited States
    CityLong Beach, California
    Period01/11/201402/11/2014
    Internet address

    Keywords

    • crop diversification
    • grain legumes
    • cereals
    • Land Equivalent Ratio
    • ecological precision farming

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