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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Diversifying European agricultural systems by intercropping grain legumes and cereals

Jensen, Erik S.; Chongtham, Iman R.; Dhamala, Nawa R.; Rodriguez, Carolina; Carton, Nicolas; Carlsson, Georg


Cropping system diversification is a key factor in developing more sustainable cropping and food systems. The agroecological practice of intercropping, meaning the simultaneous cultivation of two or more species in the same field, has recently gained renewed interest as a means of ecological intensification in European agricultural research. We discuss some recent research developments regarding 1) intercropping for ecological intensification in agroecological and conventional cropping systems, 2) studies on nitrogen resource use by cereal-grain legume intercropping cultivation, 3) the role of intercropping in the management of biotic stressors, especially weeds, and 4) intercropping as a means of creating cropping systems that are more resilient to the abiotic and biotic stress associated with climate change. Finally, we propose methods for the greater adoption of intercropping in European agriculture by unlocking farming systems from upstream and downstream barriers, with the aim of developing more sustainable agricultural and food systems.


Agroecology; ecological intensification; food security; mixed cropping; multi-actor approach; nitrogen use; sustainability

Published in

International journal of agriculture and natural resources
2020, Volume: 47, number: 3, pages: 174-186