Current knowledge and future research opportunities for modeling annual crop mixtures. A review

Noémie Gaudio*, Abraham J. Escobar-Gutiérrez, Pierre Casadebaig, Jochem B. Evers, Frédéric Gérard, Gaëtan Louarn, Nathalie Colbach, Sebastian Munz, Marie Launay, Hélène Marrou, Romain Barillot, Philippe Hinsinger, Jacques Eric Bergez, Didier Combes, Jean Louis Durand, Ela Frak, Loïc Pagès, Christophe Pradal, Sébastien Saint-Jean, Wopke van der WerfEric Justes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Growing mixtures of annual arable crop species or genotypes is a promising way to improve crop production without increasing agricultural inputs. To design optimal crop mixtures, choices of species, genotypes, sowing proportion, plant arrangement, and sowing date need to be made but field experiments alone are not sufficient to explore such a large range of factors. Crop modeling allows to study, understand, and ultimately design cropping systems and is an established method for sole crops. Recently, modeling started to be applied to annual crop mixtures as well. Here, we review to what extent crop simulation models and individual-based models are suitable to capture and predict the specificities of annual crop mixtures. We argued that (1) the crop mixture spatio-temporal heterogeneity (influencing the occurrence of ecological processes) determines the choice of the modeling approach (plant or crop centered). (2) Only few crop models (adapted from sole crop models) and individual-based models currently exist to simulate annual crop mixtures. Crop models are mainly used to address issues related to both crop mixtures management and the integration of crop mixtures into larger scales such as the rotation. In contrast, individual-based models are mainly used to identify plant traits involved in crop mixture performance and to quantify the relative contribution of the different ecological processes (niche complementarity, facilitation, competition, plasticity) to crop mixture functioning. This review highlights that modeling of annual crop mixtures is in its infancy and gives to model users some important keys to choose the model based on the questions they want to answer, with awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the modeling approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20
JournalAgronomy for Sustainable Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Annual crop mixtures
  • Crop models
  • Functional–structural plant models
  • Genotypes mixtures
  • Individual-based models
  • Intercrops
  • Model users

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