The rapidly growing demand for food, feed and fuel requires further improvements of land and water management, crop productivity and resource-use efficiencies. Combined field experimentation and crop growth modelling during the past five decades made a great leap forward in the understanding of factors that determine actual and potential yields of monocrops. The research field of production ecology developed concepts to integrate biological and biophysical processes with the aim to explore crop growth potential in contrasting environments. To understand the potential of more complex systems (multi-cropping and intercropping) we need an agro-ecosystem approach that integrates knowledge derived from various disciplines: agronomy, crop physiology, crop ecology, and environmental sciences (soil, water and climate). Adaptation of cropping systems to climate change and a better tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses by genetic improvement and by managing diverse cropping systems in a sustainable way will be of key importance in food security. To accelerate sustainable intensification of agricultural production, it is required to develop intercropping systems that are highly productive and stable under conditions with abiotic constraints (water, nutrients and weather). Strategies to achieve sustainable intensification include developing tools to evaluate crop growth potential under more extreme climatic conditions and introducing new crops and cropping systems that are more productive and robust under conditions with abiotic stress. This paper presents some examples of sustainable intensification management of intercropping systems that proved to be tolerant to extreme climate conditions.