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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Design, assessment and feasibility of legume-based cropping systems in three European regions

Pelzer, E.; Bourlet, C.; Carlsson, G.; Lopez-Bellido, R. J.; Jensen, E. S.; Jeuffroy, M. -H.


Grain legumes in cropping systems result in agronomic and environmental benefits. Nevertheless, their areas in Europe have strongly decreased over the past decades. Our aim was to design locally adapted innovative cropping systems including grain legumes for three European local pedoclimatic contexts, to assess their sustainability, and to discuss their feasibility with stakeholders. The methodology included an initial diagnosis of the most frequent cropping systems and local improvement targets in each local context (e.g. improve legume profitability, limit diseases of legumes, reduce intensive use of chemical inputs in cropping systems), the design of innovative legume-based cropping systems during a common workshop, focusing on three aims ((i) decrease pesticide use, (ii) reduce mineral N fertiliser dependency, and (iii) increase yield stability of grain legume crops and other crops of the crop sequence), and their multicriteria sustainability assessment. Stakeholders meetings were organised in each local context to discuss the feasibility of implementing the innovative cropping systems in farmers’ fields (technical implementation of cropping systems and possibility of development of legume sectors). Four to five cropping systems were designed in each local context, with crop sequences longer than references. They included at least two grain legumes (pea, faba bean, chickpea, lentil or lupine), as sole crops or intercropped with cereals. Overall sustainability was similar or improved in 71% of the legume-based cropping systems compared with their corresponding references. Among the designed cropping systems, stakeholders identified feasible ones considering both technical issues and development of legume sectors. The results indicate that reintegrating more grain legumes in the three European local contexts tested will contribute to more sustainable farming systems.


MASC((R)); multicriteria assessment; prototyping method; sustainability

Published in

Crop & Pasture Science
2017, Volume: 68, number: 11, pages: 902-914