Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Modelling crop yield in a wheat-soybean relay intercropping system: A simple routine in capturing competition for light

Yu, Jing; Rezaei, Ehsan Eyshi; Thompson, Jennifer B.; Reckling, Moritz; Nendel, Claas


Moving from sole cropping to intercropping is a transformative change in agriculture, contributing to several ecosystem services. However, modelling intercropping is challenging due to intensive parameterisation, complex calibration, and experiment scarcity. To facilitate future understanding, design and adaptation of intercropping, it is therefore necessary to develop simple modelling routines capable of simulating essential features. In this paper, we integrated a light competition module requiring four parameters into MONICA, a generic agroecosystem model, with the goal of simulating a wheat-soybean relay-row intercropping system. We tested three calibration approaches using data from two years of field experiments located in Muncheberg, Germany: sole cropping-based calibration, intercropping-based calibration and a default calibration method that incorporates both systems. Under both irrigated and rainfed conditions, MONICA successfully reproduced the aboveground biomass and yield of sole crops from field experiments, with RMSEA ranging from 0.64 t ha-1 to 2.74 t ha-1 and RMSEY ranging from 0.003 t ha-1 to 0.47 t ha-1. By taking light competition into account, the modified MONICA was able to simulate interactive performance in relay-row intercropping. Generally, MONICA overestimated the aboveground biomass and yield across the three calibration strategies, and simulations for wheat were more accurate than those for soybean. However, a comparison among the calibration strategies revealed that the intercropping-based strategy outperformed the others. It significantly improved the model efficiency for soybean yield in intercropping, increasing the Index of Agreement from 0.27 to 0.73, and it decreased the Mean Bias Error for yield by up to 76%. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of using a model that is simple in both calibration and inputs, yet detailed enough to simulate the complex aboveground light competition of intercropping. Additionally, they underscore the significance of cropping system specific calibration, highlighting the importance of calibrating crop performance specifically for intercropping in order to capture genotype-by-environment interactions.


Diversification; Water availability; Mixed cropping; Crop model; Agroecosystem model; MONICA

Published in

European Journal of Agronomy
2024, Volume: 153, article number: 127067
Publisher: ELSEVIER

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Agricultural Science

    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)