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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Does intercropping enhance yield stability in arable crop production? A meta-analysis

Raseduzzaman, Md.; Jensen, Erik Steen


The adverse effects of climate change are significantly decreasing yield levels and yield stability over time in current monocropping systems. Intercropping (IC), i.e. growing more than one species simultaneously in the same field, often increases resource use efficiency and agricultural productivity compared with growing the component crops solely and can enhance yield stability. This meta-analysis of published IC literature quantified and analysed yield stability in IC compared with the respective sole crops, focusing on the effect of intercrop components (e.g. cereal-grain legume, non-cereal-grain legume), experimental patterns (e.g. experiment over years, experiment over locations), IC design (e.g. additive and replacement) and climatic zone (e.g. tropical, subtropical, and temperate). In total, 33 articles were analysed. The coefficient of variation (%CV) of yields was used for assessing yield stability, with lower CV value indicating higher yield stability. The analysis showed that cereal-grain legume IC (CV = 22.1) significantly increased yield stability compared with the respective grain legume sole crops (CV = 31.7). Moreover, compared with the respective cereal and legume sole crops, IC in the cereal-grain legume systems gave higher yield stability than IC in the non-cereal-grain legume systems. Compared with the respective cereal (CV = 25.3) and legume (CV = 30.3) sole crops, IC (CV = 19.1) in a replacement design had significantly (P < 0.05) higher yield stability. Also intercropping in replacement design gave more stable yields than IC in an additive design. In tropical regions, cereal sole crops (CV = 26.3) showed lower yield stability than IC (CV = 17.7) and legume sole crops (CV = 21.7). However, IC in all climatic zones showed higher yield stability than both sole crops. Moreover in our analysis, it was found that a higher yield level provided higher yield stability in crop production. Thus, increasing crop diversification through IC of cereals and grain legumes can enhance yield stability and food security, making an important contribution to eco-functional, ecological or sustainable intensification of global food production.


Intercropping; Yield stability; Intercropping design; Meta-analysis; Food security; Climate change

Published in

European Journal of Agronomy
2017, Volume: 91, pages: 25-33