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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Temporal and Spatial Positioning of Service Crops in Cereals Affects Yield and Weed Control

Lagerquist, Elsa; Menegat, Alexander; Dahlin, Anna Sigrun; Parsons, David; Watson, Christine; Stahl, Per; Gunnarsson, Anita; Bergkvist, Goran


Leguminous service crops (SCs) can provide multiple services to cropping systems, reducing the reliance on external resources if sufficient biomass is produced. However, rapid light and temperature reductions limit post-harvest cultivation of SCs in Northern Europe. A novel practice of intercropping SCs in two consecutive crops (spring-winter cereal) to extend the period of SCs growth, and hence improve yield and reduce weeds, was tested. Three spatial and temporal arrangements of SCs and cash crops were investigated, as well as three SC mixtures, characterized by their longevity and frost sensitivity. Compared to no SC, the best performing mixture, frost-tolerant annuals, increased grain and N yield of winter wheat by 10% and 19%, respectively, and reduced weed biomass by 15% and 26% in oats and winter wheat, respectively. These effects were attributed to high biomass production and winter survival. However, this SC reduced oat yields by 15% compared to no SC. Furthermore, SC growth and service provision varied largely between experiments, driven by the weather conditions. Extending the SC's growth period by intercropping in two consecutive cereal crops has potential, but locally adapted species choices and establishment strategies are needed to ensure SC vitality until termination.


cropping systems; innovation; relay intercropping; legume service crops; yield; nitrogen dynamics; weeds

Published in

2022, Volume: 12, number: 9, article number: 1398
Publisher: MDPI