Spatial configuration drives complementary capture of light of the understory cotton in young jujube plantations

Qi Wang, Dongsheng Zhang, Lizhen Zhang*, Shuo Han, Wopke van der Werf, Jochem B. Evers, Zhicheng Su, Niels P.R. Anten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


In intercropping systems (growing >1 species in a field), interactions between species affect the performance of plants and the overall yield. These interactions lead to plastic responses in plant traits due to the specific environmental conditions typical for intercrops, especially in agroforestry in which the understory crop is strongly shaded by the trees. To quantify the extent to how physiological plasticity is driven by inter-specific competition, field experiments with mixtures of cotton and jujube trees grown in strips were conducted in 2012 and 2013 in Hetian, Xinjiang, China. Cotton was grown at three levels of inter-specific competition, represented by the distance between the adjacent cotton and tree rows without change in plant density. The highest cotton yield was attained farthest away from the trees, i.e. at the lowest level of inter-specific competition, with a higher proportion of fiber in the bolls as well as a higher boll density compared to plants grown at higher inter-specific competition. Low inter-specific competition also increased maximum leaf area index (LAI), total light interception and dry matter accumulation. However, light-use efficiency was higher at high levels of inter-specific competition especially in the rows close to the tree line, associated with a higher fraction of diffuse radiation. These results aid in the optimization of the spatial pattern of crops in agroforestry system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-28
JournalField Crops Research
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Inter-specific competition
  • Intercropping
  • Light interception fraction
  • Maximum growth rate
  • Photosynthesis


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