Modern agriculture has been focused on optimizing production, neglecting supporting and regulating ecosystem services. Meta-analyses have demonstrated the potential of intercropping to deliver multiple ecosystem services. However, guidelines for the design and management of such systems remain unclear, especially for the understudied vegetable-based intercropping systems. Given the diversity of vegetable crops, we propose a ‘relay’ of classical crop-specific meta-analyses to capitalize on vegetable intercropping research. Each ‘leg’ in the relay analyzes the effects of companion crops on a focal crop, and over the course of subsequent legs, the network of interactions among the different crops is built. In this study we start what we aspire to be the meta-analysis relay, focusing on cabbage (Brassica oleracea ssp.) and the delivery of the provisioning services Productivity, Product Quality (grade and pest injury in cabbage products), and Yield Stability across different companion species, spatio-temporal configurations, and management practices. We identified 76 studies from all inhabited continents across 81 field sites, comprising 892 data records, of which 689 remained after cleaning. We show that intercropping reduced cabbage productivity (− 7% on average, P < 0.05) but also pest injury (− 48%, P < 0.001) relative to sole cabbage systems. Cabbage grade on the contrary was not significantly improved by intercropping (+1%, P = 0.71). Effects on yield stability varied widely as only few data records were available from trials conducted over more than two years, pointing to the need for longer-term experimentation. Greater productivity was associated with companion species with a low growth habit or types sown at or after planting of the cabbage crop thus limiting competition with cabbage at early development stages. The decrease in pest injuries was associated with intercropping patterns involving strong inter-plant interactions (i.e., mixed, row, and additive) and companion species that supported biodiversity such as living mulches. Overall, beneficial effects of intercropping tended to be more evident in organic production systems, possibly because synthetic inputs may have hidden regulating effects. Cabbage growers and agricultural advisors can use these guidelines when designing intercrop systems specific to their needs. Applying the approach to other crops and agro-ecosystem services as part of the proposed meta-analysis relay will foster comprehensive understanding of vegetable intercropping systems interactions.
Pagina's / pages: 12
Type: Wetenschappelijk artikel
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Abstract / summary in English:
Keywords in English: Agroecology, Brassica oleracea L., Crop diversification, Ecosystem services, Intercropping design, Yield