Maximisation of production of intercropping pea/cereal crops

CFE Topp, JA Baddeley, CA Watson

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Intercropping of cereals and legumes is regarded as a sustainable production system and are likely to results in higher levels of productivity than the counterpart sole crops. However, the choices the famer makes about the management of the intercrop will affect both its productivity and the relative contribution of each crop. The management decisions will be influenced by whether the farmer is growing the crop for grain, either for human or livestock consumption, or for silage. As well as what varieties should be sown, the farmer must make decisions on the relative quantities of the legume and cereal that are sown, and the quantity of nitrogen applied. A review of experiment relevant to European agriculture has been carried out on pea/cereal intercrops to assess the effect of the sowing ratio and the nitrogen application rates on crop productivity of cereal.
The relative proportion of the pea in the yield for cereal pea intercrops is likely to be lower than the proportion of pea sown, although this will be affected by other management factors, soils and climatic conditions. Changing the seed rate from the 100% sown as a sole crop has no impact on the total yield for oats, however sowing extremely high rates of seeds in barley pea mixtures does increase the absolute yield.
Applying nitrogen to pea cereal mixtures will reduce the rate of nitrogen fixation by the legume, which will in turn make the legume less competitive. The impact of applying low (less than 50 kg N ha-1 yr-1), medium (50–100 kg N ha-1 yr-1) or high (> 100 ha-1 yr-1) was assessed relative to no nitrogen applied. At low rates, there was a possibility that yields could be reduced or showed little change from those receiving no nitrogen. At medium rates, yields tended to increase by between 5–35%. There were few observations where high rates of nitrogen had been applied, but the impact on yields varied between 5–15% increase to a 45–55% increase. However, unsurprisingly as the rate of N applied increase, the proportion of the legume in the yield decreased.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPrint publication - 3 Sept 2021
EventLegume Science and Practice 2 -
Duration: 1 Sept 20213 Sept 2021


ConferenceLegume Science and Practice 2


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