Spatio-temporal design of strip cropping systems

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14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Context: Crop diversification has been proposed as a promising strategy for transitioning towards sustainable agricultural systems by leveraging biological processes and controls present in naturally biodiverse ecosystems. Strip cropping, a form of intercropping where two or more crops are grown adjacent to one another in long and narrow multi-row strips, has been shown to deliver a greater range of ecosystem services compared to sole crop references due to increased interspecific crop interactions, spatio-temporal niche differentiation, and higher in-field habitat diversity. The possibility to adjust the strip width to the working width of farmers' existing machines gives strip cropping of cash crops an important implementation advantage over other intercropping practices. Systematic exploration and evaluation of spatial plans for strip cropping systems, however, is constrained by the lack of spatially-explicit design approaches.
Objective: Here we present a framework to support systematic exploration of spatio-temporal strip cropping configurations for a given farm context and set of objectives.
Methods: The framework comprises six steps: 1) Diagnosis of the current farm situation; 2) Specification of strip cropping system attributes; 3) Temporal strip cropping planning; 4) Spatio-temporal strip cropping planning; 5) Spatio-temporal strip cropping configuration assessment; 6) Strip cropping configuration selection and visualization. We combine two software applications: ROTAT to generate crop rotations and the novel RotaStrip to systematically explore spatio-temporal configurations based on the rotations generated by ROTAT. We illustrate the framework with a case study from the Netherlands using gross margin, habitat score, and spatial crop compatibility score as indicators.
Results and conclusions: 150 crop rotations were generated. When 6 additional crops were included this was increased to 51,371, and the maximum values of the three indicator scores were also improved. Using the thirteen candidate crops to generate spatio-temporal configurations, we identified 16 Pareto-optimal and 78 anti-optimal configurations, from which the highest and lowest performing configurations were selected. The two contrasting configurations scored 7254 and 6658 €.ha−1.yr−1 for gross margin, 0.88 and 0.75 for habitat score, and 98 and− 58 for crop compatibility score, respectively, illustrating the value of consideration of the spatial aspects. Bridging the current knowledge gaps regarding what constitute good crop combinations, and strengthening the evidence underpinning the evaluation of ecosystem service delivery on the basis of spatial configuration, would further improve the quality of the generated strip cropping plans.
Significance: The framework presented and illustrated in this study provides a basis for systematic spatio-temporal strip cropping systems design and implementation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103455
JournalAgricultural Systems
Volume201
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022

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