Paper of the Month December 2019

Effects of strip width on yields in relay-strip intercropping: A simulation study


Intercropping is the cultivation of multiple crop species on the same land. Relay strip intercropping is an intercropping system in which the component species are grown in strips, while the growing periods of the crop species overlap only partially. The effects of strip width on yields in relay-strip intercropping are still poorly understood. Here in a case study on wheat-maize relay intercropping a simple strip intercropping model was applied to quantify intercropping performance as a function of a wide range of strip widths. Simulations showed that (1) the optimum strip width is less than 1 meter and (2) benefits of intercropping rapidly drop as strips become wider. Most previous experimental work was also done at narrow configurations, with strips less than 3 meters wide. Benefits of intercropping may therefore be less than what would be expected from experiments if narrow configurations are not attainable because of lack of mechanisation. All optimised strip configurations showed a Land Equivalent Ratio (LER) larger than 1 indicating benefits of intercropping, irrespective of assumptions that were made on radiation use efficiency in intercropped species as compared to sole crops. At current prices of wheat and maize, however, intercropping gross margin exceeded sole cropping gross margin only if the intercrop RUE was larger than sole crop RUE for both species. This study shows that strip crop growth models can be used to specify needs for future machinery, that will enable farmers to attain benefits from intercropping.

P.A.J. van Oort, F. Gou, T.J. Stomph and W. van der Werf (2019) European Journal of Agronomy 112: 125936

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