Intercropping wheat and maize increases total radiation interception and wheat RUE but lowers maize RUE

Fang Gou, Martin K. van Ittersum, Elisabeth Simon, Peter A. Leffelaar, Peter E.L. van der Putten, Lizhen Zhang, Wopke van der Werf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Row configuration has a large influence on the intensity of species interactions in intercrops. Row configuration affects how many crop rows interact with the same species and how many rows interact with the other species, shaping the expression of plasticity, resource capture, and growth. This study aims to determine how row configuration influences radiation interception and productivity in wheat-maize intercropping under western European growing conditions. Field experiments with different row configurations were carried out in 2013 and 2014 in the Netherlands. We compared seven treatments, comprising sole crops of wheat and maize (SW and SM), a replacement intercrop (6:2WM), skip-row designs (6:0WM, 0:2WM) and add-row designs (6:3WM, 8:2WM). We determined leaf area and biomass dynamics over time, and developed a simple geometry-based model to estimate light capture in these different row configurations. The model was tested with light measurements in the field. Crop radiation use efficiency (RUE) was estimated by linear regression of above-ground biomass on the calculated cumulative intercepted light (photosynthetically active radiation – PAR). This study showed that: 1) wheat-maize intercropping had significantly higher PAR interception than sole wheat in 2013 and 2014, and sole maize in 2013, but not in 2014; 2) intercropping significantly increased RUE of wheat, whereas it significantly decreased RUE of maize; 3) both light interception and light use efficiency changed with planting configuration. Thus we showed that the row configuration of the intercrop affected light interception as well as light use efficiency by modulating the strength of competitive and compensatory interactions within and between crop species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-139
JournalEuropean Journal of Agronomy
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Leaf area dynamics
  • Modelling light interception
  • PAR
  • Western Europe


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