Quantifying plant traits and weed suppression in intercrop systems

Intercropping is the agricultural practice where two or more crop species are cultivated simultaneously within a single season on the same area of land. One of the potential benefits of intercropping is improved weed suppression compared to the average of the monocrops. In a cereal-legume intercrop system, the cereal component crop contributes more to weed suppression than expected from the sole crop stand, which causes this benefit. Through a combination of field experiments and simulation modelling, plant and crop traits that are responsible for this phenomenon can be identified and quantified.


Functional-structural plant (FSP) modelling is an advanced modelling technique that can dynamically simulate plant structures in interaction with the environment to simulate 3D plant growth in space and time. Such a model can accurately capture detailed processes in how plants react to other plants and their environment. Currently, our modelling of plant plasticity in response to its environment needs further development. Understanding the mechanisms responsible for the difference in weed suppressiveness between intercrops and monocrops and the proper implementation in our current FSP model is needed. This will make it possible to identify and quantify plant traits that constitute a good intercrop component crop in terms of weed suppression.

Objectives and methods

The aim of this project is to identify and quantify the plant and crop traits responsible for enhanced weed suppression in intercrops. A field experiment will be done to gather data. This data is used to develop and parameterise an FSP model. Data from both the field experiment and FSP model simulations is used for the final analysis. Within this topic it is possible for the student to develop their own research ideas.

Required skills

Basic statistics. Useful but not required: maximum likelihood estimation, R, Java, FSP modelling, field work experience.

Types of research

Field experiment (different cereal-legume intercropping systems and their sole crop stands); FSP modelling (developing plant plasticity responses; simulations of cereal-legume intercrop systems); data analysis.

Project Image 2 DK - Quantifying the effect of plant traits that contribute to weed suppression.PNG