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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Grain Yield Stability of Cereal-Legume Intercrops Is Greater Than Sole Crops in More Productive Conditions

Weih, Martin; Karley, Alison J.; Newton, Adrian C.; Kiaer, Lars P.; Scherber, Christoph; Rubiales, Diego; Adam, Eveline; Ajal, James; Brandmeier, Jana; Pappagallo, Silvia; Villegas-Fernandez, Angel; Reckling, Moritz; Tavoletti, Stefano


The intercropping of two or more crop species on the same piece of land at a given time has been hypothesized to enhance crop yield stability. To address this hypothesis, we assessed the grain yield stability of various barley-pea and wheat-faba bean mixtures grown in seven experimental field trials (locations) across Europe during two years with contrasting weather (2017 and 2018). Three different yield stability measures were used, all based on the expected yield variability of the mixture components grown as sole crops, and the corresponding observed yield variability of the same components grown in 50:50 mixtures in a replacement design. Stability indices were calculated as ratios between the expected and observed variabilities, with values > 1 indicating greater stability of the intercrops. Mean grain yields tended to be higher in intercrops than sole crops. However, in contrast to our hypothesis, the observed (intercrop) yield stability was similar or lower than the expected (sole crop) stability in most locations except one. Furthermore, yield stability significantly increased with increasing mean yields when assessed across differentially productive locations. The results are relevant for the designing of intercropping systems as a means to increase yield stability and the resilience of cropping systems.


barley (Hordeum vulgare); crop diversification; faba bean (Vicia faba); pea (Pisum sativum); wheat (Triticum aestivum); yield stability; intercropping

Published in

2021, Volume: 11, number: 3, article number: 11030255
Publisher: MDPI