Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Transition to legume-supported farming in Europe through redesigning cropping systems

Notz, Inka; Topp, Cairistiona F. E.; Schuler, Johannes; Alves, Sheila; Gallardo, Leonardo Amthauer; Dauber, Jens; Haase, Thorsten; Hargreaves, Paul R. R.; Hennessy, Michael; Iantcheva, Anelia; Jeanneret, Philippe; Kay, Sonja; Recknagel, Juergen; Rittler, Leopold; Vasiljevic, Marjana; Watson, Christine A. A.; Reckling, Moritz


Legume-supported cropping systems affect environmental, production, and economic impacts. In Europe, legume production is still marginal with grain legumes covering less than 3% of arable land. A transition towards legume-supported systems could contribute to a higher level of protein self-sufficiency and lower environmental impacts of agriculture. Suitable approaches for designing legume-supported cropping systems are required that go beyond the production of prescriptive solutions. We applied the DEED framework with scientists and advisors in 17 study areas in nine European countries, enabling us to describe, explain, explore, and redesign cropping systems. The results of 31 rotation comparisons showed that legume integration decreased N fertilizer use and nitrous oxide emissions (N2O) in more than 90% of the comparisons with reductions ranging from 6 to 142 kg N ha(-1) and from 1 to 6 kg N2O ha(-1), respectively. In over 75% of the 24 arable cropping system comparisons, rotations with legumes had lower nitrate leaching and higher protein yield per hectare. The assessment of above-ground biodiversity showed no considerable difference between crop rotations with and without legumes in most comparisons. Energy yields were lower in legume-supported systems in more than 90% of all comparisons. Feasibility and adaptation needs of legume systems were discussed in joint workshops and economic criteria were highlighted as particularly important, reflecting findings from the rotation comparisons in which 63% of the arable systems with legumes had lower standard gross margins. The DEED framework enabled us to keep close contact with the engaged research-farmer networks. Here, we demonstrate that redesigning legume-supported cropping systems through a process of close stakeholder interactions provides benefits compared to traditional methods and that a large-scale application in diverse study areas is feasible and needed to support the transition to legume-supported farming in Europe.


DEED; Environment; Economics; Multi-criteria assessment; Crop rotation; Participation

Published in

Agronomy for Sustainable Development
2023, volume: 43, number: 1, article number: 12

Authors' information

Notz, Inka
Leibniz Zentrum fur Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF)
Topp, Cairistiona F. E.
Scotland's Rural College
Schuler, Johannes
Leibniz Zentrum fur Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF)
Alves, Sheila
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Gallardo, Leonardo Amthauer
Johann Heinrich von Thunen Institute
Dauber, Jens
Johann Heinrich von Thunen Institute
Dauber, Jens
Braunschweig University of Technology
Haase, Thorsten
Landesbetrieb Landwirtschaft Hessen (LLH)
Hargreaves, Paul R. R.
Scotland's Rural College
Hennessy, Michael
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Iantcheva, Anelia
Agricultural Academy - Bulgaria
Jeanneret, Philippe
Swiss Federal Research Station Agroscope
Kay, Sonja
Swiss Federal Research Station Agroscope
Recknagel, Juergen
Agr Technol Ctr Augustenberg LTZ
Rittler, Leopold
Donau Soja
Vasiljević, Marjana
Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops
Watson, Christine A. A.
SLU Dummy
Watson, Christine A. A.
Scotland's Rural College
Reckling, Moritz
Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF)
Reckling, Moritz
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Crop Production Ecology

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Science

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)