A lack of complementarity for water acquisition limits yield advantage of oats/vetch intercropping in a semi-arid condition

Yue Zhang, Yu Duan, Jiayi Nie, Jie Yang, Jianhong Ren, Wopke van der Werf, Jochem B. Evers, Jun Zhang, Zhicheng Su, Lizhen Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Oats (Avena sativa L.) and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) are well adapted crop species for production in semi-arid environments, such as in Inner Mongolia, China, where due to variable rainfall, farmers do not apply fertilizer. We hypothesized that the use of a mixture of a cereal and a legume could enhance yields under these low input conditions, because integrating an N-fixing legume in the system could mitigate N limitation for the cereal and enhance its growth. A nine-year (2008–2016) field experiment was set up with three treatments: sole oats, sole vetch and oats/vetch strip intercropping. These cropping systems were grown continuously in the same plots, to allow accrual of long-term effects. Yields and water use were quantified in years 7–9 of the experiment (2014 to 2016). With a 50/50 ratio of the area sown to the two species, the intercropped oats had a relative yield of 0.59 and intercropped vetch had a relative yield of 0.45. Oats was the dominant crop characterized by a relative yield per plant of 1.18, compared to a relative yield per plant of vetch of 0.89. However, the land equivalent ratio (LER), expressing the comparative efficiency of land use in intercropping, and the water equivalent ratio (WER), the comparative system level water use efficiency of the intercrop relative to sole crops, were both not significantly different from one. Thus we reject the hypothesis that oat/vetch intercropping increases land productivity and water use efficiency. From differences in results in years with more rainfall and years with less rainfall, we infer that yields of both species are mostly limited by water availability. On average over the three years, the yield disadvantage of vetch was fully compensated by the yield advantage of oats, due to a lack of complementarity for water acquisition. This conclusion can be generalized to the testable prediction that species selection for productive intercropping should focus on achieving complementarity for traits that interact with the factor most constraining productivity, which was rainfall in this particular crop system under the conditions of the study.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105778
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Volume225
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2019

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intercropping
Vicia
complementarity
semiarid zones
oats
water
rain
Vicia villosa
rainfall
crop
crops
water use efficiency
cereal
legumes
land productivity
productivity
China
dry environmental conditions
arid environment
Avena sativa

Keywords

  • Daily water use
  • Land equivalent ratio
  • Productivity
  • Water equivalent ratio
  • Water use efficiency

Cite this

Zhang, Yue ; Duan, Yu ; Nie, Jiayi ; Yang, Jie ; Ren, Jianhong ; van der Werf, Wopke ; Evers, Jochem B. ; Zhang, Jun ; Su, Zhicheng ; Zhang, Lizhen. / A lack of complementarity for water acquisition limits yield advantage of oats/vetch intercropping in a semi-arid condition. In: Agricultural Water Management. 2019 ; Vol. 225.
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title = "A lack of complementarity for water acquisition limits yield advantage of oats/vetch intercropping in a semi-arid condition",
abstract = "Oats (Avena sativa L.) and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) are well adapted crop species for production in semi-arid environments, such as in Inner Mongolia, China, where due to variable rainfall, farmers do not apply fertilizer. We hypothesized that the use of a mixture of a cereal and a legume could enhance yields under these low input conditions, because integrating an N-fixing legume in the system could mitigate N limitation for the cereal and enhance its growth. A nine-year (2008–2016) field experiment was set up with three treatments: sole oats, sole vetch and oats/vetch strip intercropping. These cropping systems were grown continuously in the same plots, to allow accrual of long-term effects. Yields and water use were quantified in years 7–9 of the experiment (2014 to 2016). With a 50/50 ratio of the area sown to the two species, the intercropped oats had a relative yield of 0.59 and intercropped vetch had a relative yield of 0.45. Oats was the dominant crop characterized by a relative yield per plant of 1.18, compared to a relative yield per plant of vetch of 0.89. However, the land equivalent ratio (LER), expressing the comparative efficiency of land use in intercropping, and the water equivalent ratio (WER), the comparative system level water use efficiency of the intercrop relative to sole crops, were both not significantly different from one. Thus we reject the hypothesis that oat/vetch intercropping increases land productivity and water use efficiency. From differences in results in years with more rainfall and years with less rainfall, we infer that yields of both species are mostly limited by water availability. On average over the three years, the yield disadvantage of vetch was fully compensated by the yield advantage of oats, due to a lack of complementarity for water acquisition. This conclusion can be generalized to the testable prediction that species selection for productive intercropping should focus on achieving complementarity for traits that interact with the factor most constraining productivity, which was rainfall in this particular crop system under the conditions of the study.",
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author = "Yue Zhang and Yu Duan and Jiayi Nie and Jie Yang and Jianhong Ren and {van der Werf}, Wopke and Evers, {Jochem B.} and Jun Zhang and Zhicheng Su and Lizhen Zhang",
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A lack of complementarity for water acquisition limits yield advantage of oats/vetch intercropping in a semi-arid condition. / Zhang, Yue; Duan, Yu; Nie, Jiayi; Yang, Jie; Ren, Jianhong; van der Werf, Wopke; Evers, Jochem B.; Zhang, Jun; Su, Zhicheng; Zhang, Lizhen.

In: Agricultural Water Management, Vol. 225, 105778, 20.11.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - A lack of complementarity for water acquisition limits yield advantage of oats/vetch intercropping in a semi-arid condition

AU - Zhang, Yue

AU - Duan, Yu

AU - Nie, Jiayi

AU - Yang, Jie

AU - Ren, Jianhong

AU - van der Werf, Wopke

AU - Evers, Jochem B.

AU - Zhang, Jun

AU - Su, Zhicheng

AU - Zhang, Lizhen

PY - 2019/11/20

Y1 - 2019/11/20

N2 - Oats (Avena sativa L.) and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) are well adapted crop species for production in semi-arid environments, such as in Inner Mongolia, China, where due to variable rainfall, farmers do not apply fertilizer. We hypothesized that the use of a mixture of a cereal and a legume could enhance yields under these low input conditions, because integrating an N-fixing legume in the system could mitigate N limitation for the cereal and enhance its growth. A nine-year (2008–2016) field experiment was set up with three treatments: sole oats, sole vetch and oats/vetch strip intercropping. These cropping systems were grown continuously in the same plots, to allow accrual of long-term effects. Yields and water use were quantified in years 7–9 of the experiment (2014 to 2016). With a 50/50 ratio of the area sown to the two species, the intercropped oats had a relative yield of 0.59 and intercropped vetch had a relative yield of 0.45. Oats was the dominant crop characterized by a relative yield per plant of 1.18, compared to a relative yield per plant of vetch of 0.89. However, the land equivalent ratio (LER), expressing the comparative efficiency of land use in intercropping, and the water equivalent ratio (WER), the comparative system level water use efficiency of the intercrop relative to sole crops, were both not significantly different from one. Thus we reject the hypothesis that oat/vetch intercropping increases land productivity and water use efficiency. From differences in results in years with more rainfall and years with less rainfall, we infer that yields of both species are mostly limited by water availability. On average over the three years, the yield disadvantage of vetch was fully compensated by the yield advantage of oats, due to a lack of complementarity for water acquisition. This conclusion can be generalized to the testable prediction that species selection for productive intercropping should focus on achieving complementarity for traits that interact with the factor most constraining productivity, which was rainfall in this particular crop system under the conditions of the study.

AB - Oats (Avena sativa L.) and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) are well adapted crop species for production in semi-arid environments, such as in Inner Mongolia, China, where due to variable rainfall, farmers do not apply fertilizer. We hypothesized that the use of a mixture of a cereal and a legume could enhance yields under these low input conditions, because integrating an N-fixing legume in the system could mitigate N limitation for the cereal and enhance its growth. A nine-year (2008–2016) field experiment was set up with three treatments: sole oats, sole vetch and oats/vetch strip intercropping. These cropping systems were grown continuously in the same plots, to allow accrual of long-term effects. Yields and water use were quantified in years 7–9 of the experiment (2014 to 2016). With a 50/50 ratio of the area sown to the two species, the intercropped oats had a relative yield of 0.59 and intercropped vetch had a relative yield of 0.45. Oats was the dominant crop characterized by a relative yield per plant of 1.18, compared to a relative yield per plant of vetch of 0.89. However, the land equivalent ratio (LER), expressing the comparative efficiency of land use in intercropping, and the water equivalent ratio (WER), the comparative system level water use efficiency of the intercrop relative to sole crops, were both not significantly different from one. Thus we reject the hypothesis that oat/vetch intercropping increases land productivity and water use efficiency. From differences in results in years with more rainfall and years with less rainfall, we infer that yields of both species are mostly limited by water availability. On average over the three years, the yield disadvantage of vetch was fully compensated by the yield advantage of oats, due to a lack of complementarity for water acquisition. This conclusion can be generalized to the testable prediction that species selection for productive intercropping should focus on achieving complementarity for traits that interact with the factor most constraining productivity, which was rainfall in this particular crop system under the conditions of the study.

KW - Daily water use

KW - Land equivalent ratio

KW - Productivity

KW - Water equivalent ratio

KW - Water use efficiency

U2 - 10.1016/j.agwat.2019.105778

DO - 10.1016/j.agwat.2019.105778

M3 - Article

VL - 225

JO - Agricultural Water Management

JF - Agricultural Water Management

SN - 0378-3774

M1 - 105778

ER -