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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Supply chain perspectives on breeding for legume–cereal intercrops

Kiær, Lars P.; Weedon, Odette D.; Bedoussac, Laurent; Bickler, Charlotte; Finckh, Maria R.; Haug, Benedikt; Iannetta, Pietro P. M.; Raaphorst-Travaille, Grietje; Weih, Martin; Karley, Alison J.


Compared to sole crops, intercropping—especially of legumes and cereals—has great potential to improve crop yield and resource use efficiency, and can provide many other ecosystem services. However, the beneficial effects of intercrops are often greatly dependent on the end use as well as the specific species and genotypes being co-cultivated. In addition, intercropping imposes added complexity at different levels of the supply chain. While the need for developing crop genotypes for intercropping has long been recognized, most cultivars on the market are optimized for sole cropping and may not necessarily perform well in intercrops. This paper aims to place breeding targets for intercrop-adapted genotypes in a supply chain perspective. Three case studies of legumes and cereals intercropped for human consumption are used to identify desirable intercrop traits for actors across the supply chains, many of which are not targeted by traditional breeding for sole crops, including certain seed attributes, and some of which do not fit traditional breeding schemes, such as breeding for synchronized maturity and species synergies. Incorporating these traits into intercrop breeding could significantly reduce complexity along the supply chain. It is concluded that the widespread adoption and integration of intercrops will only be successful through the inclusion and collaboration of all supply chain actors, the application of breeding approaches that take into account the complexity of intercrop supply chains, and the implementation of diversification strategies in every process from field to fork.


breeding strategies; crop mixtures; intercrop-adapted genotypes; legume–cereal intercropping; participatory breeding; species synergy; supply chain actors

Published in

Frontiers in Plant Science
2022, volume: 13, article number: 844635

Authors' information

Kiær, Lars P.
University of Copenhagen
Weedon, Odette D.
University of Kassel
Bedoussac, Laurent
University of Toulouse
Bickler, Charlotte
Organic Research Centre
Finckh, Maria R.
University of Kassel
Haug, Benedikt
Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL)
Iannetta, Pietro P. M.
The James Hutton Institute
Raaphorst-Travaille, Grietje
Nordic Maize Breeding
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Crop Production Ecology
Karley, Alison J.
James Hutton Institute

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Science

Publication Identifiers


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