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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Nutrient Accumulation Pattern in Mixtures of Wheat and Faba Bean Is Strongly Influenced by Cultivar Choice and Co-Existing Weeds

Ajal, James; Weih, Martin


Simple Summary Growing a mixture of two or more crop species, particularly cereals and legumes, can enhance resource use efficiency for growth-limiting resources, such as nutrients. We evaluated the patterns of nutrient accumulation efficiency in different cultivars of faba bean and wheat grown in mixtures with and without the presence of weeds in a growth container experiment. The cultivar used in the mixture determined the amount of nitrogen accumulated by the legumes, but cereals generally accumulated more nitrogen in the mixtures than when grown as sole crops. Competition from weeds resulted in lower nitrogen accumulation in the crop plants, and plant neighbor identity affected the accumulation of other nutrients relative to the accumulation of nitrogen and phosphorus in the plants. Cultivar choice is therefore important for resource limitation and thereby the growth performance of plants grown in mixtures. Cereal-legume mixtures are often associated with higher yields than the components grown as sole crops, but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. The study aims to evaluate how different cultivars in a two-species wheat-faba bean mixture influence above- and below-ground nitrogen (N) accumulation in the plant biomass, whether crop mixing affected the accumulation of other nutrients relative to the accumulation of N and phosphorus (P), and how the nutrient accumulation pattern in sole crops and mixtures is influenced by weed competition. Using a growth container experiment, we investigate nutrient accumulation patterns on specific wheat and faba bean cultivars grown as sole crops and mixtures, and with and without weed competition. We found that cereals in the mixture accumulated more N than in the sole crops, and the cultivar used influenced biomass accumulation in the legumes. Competition from weeds reduced the amount of plant N pools accumulated in the crop plant biomass. Based on stoichiometric scaling exponents, the plant neighbor affected the accumulation of other nutrients relative to the accumulation of N and P. These results are relevant for species and cultivar selection, all of which are important prerequisites for maximizing mixture performance.


scaling exponent; cereal–legume; weed competition; species mixtures; nutrient accumulation; plant–plant interaction

Published in

2022, Volume: 11, number: 5, article number: 630