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Last update: May 2021

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ReMIX H2020 - Intercrops

Practice Abstracts

Practice Abstracts 1-12
ReMIX will provide 24 practice abstracts to disseminate the project's key results in an easy and understandable fashion. Practice Abstracts will be uploaded to the EIP-AGRI website and network, the project and partners’ website, and the Organic Farm Knowledge Platform. The first batch of 12 practice abstracts can be found below. Enjoy the read!

1. Intercropping grain-legumes and cereals for improved protein concentration in cereals

The increase of the world population requires analogous increases in food production, particularly of wheat with high grain protein content. In this respect, intercropping with legumes i.e. lentil, pea, etc. represents a solution to improve cereal protein concentration. However, the selection of a proper wheat cultivar for higher yield and protein content is crucial. The present practice abstract proposes possible practical recommendation to achieve higher protein content of bread wheat with no need to include N fertilizers.

2. Improving crop yield stability by intercropping 

Extreme weather, biotic stresses and field-scale variability in soil quality increase the risk of losses in global sole crop production systems. Intercropping, the simultaneous cultivation of more than one species, can overcome these problems. The present practice abstract shows the results of the testing of pea and oat in sole and intercrop exposed to severe drought. Based on these data, recommendations on the use of intercrops and their benefits are given.

3. Services expected by farmers from intercropping practices

Species mixtures in the European farming landscape have almost disappeared despite an increasing number of studies documenting their agroecological benefits. This practice abstract suggests that farmer collective knowledge is the key in redesigning credible and socially valuable intercropping strategies and to evaluate how they best fulfil the expectations of value-chain actors involved. During ReMIX, 11 Multi-actor Platforms (MAPs) were built across Europe in order to share knowledge on species mixture strategies through a codesign process. The results of this study and relative recommendations can be found in the full practice abstract.

4. Must sowing density of intercropping be half of the two sole crops density for providing good performance?

Optimal sowing density (OSD) depends on factors such as species and pedo-climatic conditions. For this reason, OSD should not be set as a specific recommendation. The present practice abstract helps end-users in defining specific OSD considering specific situations, factors and different combinations.

5. Designing mixtures to control weed pressure

Weeds compete with the main crop for light, water and nutrients. Chemicals and, to a lesser degree, mechanical treatments are widely used to suppress weeds. However, mixing species with complementary properties and that benefit from each other is proposed as a solution against weed pressure. This practice abstract focuses on the intercrop with living mulch as a recommendation for weed control.

6. Species mixtures for lentil production in Germany

Today lentil production is concentrated in India, Canada and Turkey. Indeed, economically competitive, high quality ecological production in the European Union is challenging. This practice abstract suggests that intercropping with partner crops is important to increase harvest efficiency, suppress weeds, followed by efficient multi-step technical separation and local marketing. A series of useful practical recommendations are given.

7. Principles of design of intercropping

Studies on crop mixtures are not particularly common so farmers may lack knowledge about what best suits their objectives and conditions. This practice abstract shows the principles for crop mixtures design (combinations of species, cultivars, densities, sowing patterns and fertilization) and how they depend on targeted services. Several practical recommendations are given including on how to increase the efficiency of resource use (light, nitrogen, water, etc.), to facilitate harvest and reduce losses etc.

8. Wheat-lentil in South-West France

Lentil is an important crop known for its nutritional values and taste. However, it is sensitive to lodging, bruchid beetles and weeds, which leads to low and uncertain yields. This practice abstract suggests that the addition of wheat to a lentil crop is a real benefit for farmers as it can increase and stabilize yield when facing abiotic and biotic stresses. For further practical information see the full practice abstract.

9. Overview of intercropping practices in Europe

In intensive farming, monocrops are standard procedure for efficiency reasons, but they show adverse effects on biodiversity, soil health and fertility. The current practice abstract recommends crop mixtures, like wheat-faba bean as a solution for better resource efficiency, product quality and high overall yields for low-input farming systems. Useful practical recommendations can be found on the full practice abstract.

10. RDP Measure 16.2 to overcome barriers of the approach

EU rural areas suffer from fragmentation. In particular, operators are often small; the communication is difficult, and economies of scale are harder to achieve. This practice abstract proposes “RDP Measure 16.2 funds pilot projects” for cooperation of farmers, advisors and other actors in order to tackle specific problems. Practical recommendations include pooling different funding streams as a powerful approach to boost interactive innovation in the agricultural sector, especially where there is poor structuration, fragmentation or limited capacity for innovation and diffusion.

11. Designing mixtures to suppress airborne pathogens

Pathogens spread easily among genetically uniform plants. Moreover, adaptation leads to resistance breakdown and loss of valuable varieties. Growing mixtures of varieties or species that differ in their resistance to air-borne pathogens is a valuable solution to slow down pathogens and relative resistance as well as to reduce pesticide use. For the practical recommendations on this subject see the full practice abstract.

12. To N-fertilize cereal-legume intercrops or not?

Nitrogen fertilization of cereal-legume intercrops could be considered debatable, since this mixture could benefit from complementary N sources (from soil and atmospheric N2). Intercropping cereal-legume usually results in a higher cereal grain protein concentration compared to sole crop cereal and the greatest benefit is always obtain without N-fertilizer. The efficacy of N-fertilizer depends on its form and the weather conditions after application, which interacts with the intercrop growth. This practice abstract proposes useful practical recommendation on N-fertilization requirement of cereal-legume intercrops.