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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

The importance of aboveground and belowground interspecific interactions in determining crop growth and advantages of peanut/maize intercropping

Jiao, Nianyuan; Wang, Jiangtao; Ma, Chao; Zhang, Chaochun; Guo, Dayong; Zhang, Fusuo; Jensen, Erik Steen


Intercropping of maize (Zea mays L.) and peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.) often results in greater yields than the respective sole crops. However, there is limited knowledge of aboveground and belowground interspecific interactions between maize and peanut in field. A two-year field experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of interspecific interactions on plant growth and grain yield for a peanut/maize intercropping system under different nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) levels. The method of root separation was employed to differentiate belowground from aboveground interspecific interactions. We observed that the global interspecific interaction effect on the shoot biomass of the intercropping system decreased with the coexistence period, and belowground interaction contributed more than aboveground interaction to advantages of the intercropping in terms of shoot biomass and grain yield. There was a positive effect from aboveground and belowground interspecific interactions on crop plant growth in the intercropping system, except that aboveground interaction had a negative effect on peanut during the late coexistence period. The advantage of intercropping on grain came mainly from increased maize yield (means 95%) due to aboveground interspecific competition for light and belowground interaction (61%72% vs. 28%-39% in fertilizer treatments). There was a negative effect on grain yield from aboveground interaction for peanut, but belowground interspecific interaction positively affected peanut grain yield. The supply of N, P, or N + P increased grain yield of intercropped maize and the contribution from aboveground interspecific interaction. Our study suggests that the advantages of peanut/maize intercropping for yield mainly comes from aboveground interspecific competition for maize and belowground interspecific facilitation for peanut, and their respective yield can be enhanced by N and P. These findings are important for managing the intercropping system and optimizing the benefits from using this system. (C) 2021 Crop Science Society of China and Institute of Crop Science, CAAS. Production and hosting by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of KeAi Communications Co., Ltd.


Peanut/maize intercropping; Aboveground interspecific competition; Belowground interspecific facilitation; Nitrogen and phosphorus; Advantage of intercropping

Published in

The Crop Journal
2021, Volume: 9, number: 6, pages: 1460-1469

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Agricultural Science

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