Yield advantage and water saving in maize/pea intercrop

L. Mao, L. Zhang, W. Li, W. van der Werf, J. Sun, J.H.J. Spiertz, L. Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

101 Citations (Scopus)


Intercropping is a well-established strategy for maximization of yield from limited land, but mixed results have been obtained as to its performance in terms of water use efficiency. Here, two maize/pea intercrop layouts were studied in comparison to sole maize and sole pea with and without plastic cover on maize to reduce evaporation. Growth patterns over time and yield were determined. Profiles of soil water content over depth and across rows in the intercrop were measured at three times to quantify water extraction and its spatial and temporal distribution. Several indices were calculated to characterize the efficiency of land and water use of intercrops as compared with sole crops of maize and pea. Land equivalent ratio ranged from 1.18 to 1.47, indicating that intercropping was an effective strategy for maximizing land use efficiency. Water equivalent ratio, WER, defined to characterize the use efficiency of the water resource in intercropping, in analogy with LER, ranged from 0.87 to 1.16, and ¿WU, the relative departure of actual water use in intercropping from expected use, ranged from -13.7% to 19.8%, indicating variability in the effect of intercropping on water use efficiency. Plastic film in maize increased yield and water use efficiency, but did not significantly affect LER or WER, indicating that intercropping advantage was not affected by plastic film mulch, and the advantages of film mulch were conserved under intercropping. A cropping system of 4 rows maize with 4 rows peas, with 30 cm between maize rows and 20 cm between pea rows, was superior in yield and water use efficiency to a system with 2 rows maize and 4 rows of pea with 40 cm between maize rows and 20 cm between pea rows. It is concluded that intercropping of maize and pea enhances land use efficiency compared to growing them as sole crops. Film mulch saves water in sole crops as well as intercrops.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-20
JournalField Crops Research
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • pearl millet-groundnut
  • plastic film mulch
  • root distribution
  • northwest china
  • use efficiency
  • spring wheat
  • growth
  • irrigation
  • systems
  • season

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Yield advantage and water saving in maize/pea intercrop'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this