Benefits of mixed crop agriculture

seminars, workshops |

Agro-ecological practices which increase crop diversity can improve yields, reduce crop sensitivity to unfavourable climatic conditions, reduce fertilizer inputs, and overall enhance soil quality and ecosystem services compared to conventional mono-cropping systems. Understanding and quantifying these benefits will help promote more sustainable and resilient croplands to better meet current and future crop demands.

The Crop Production Ecology Seminars is a free and online platform for scientific debate about agricultural production and sustainability between academics, stakeholders, and the general public.

Adrian C Newton, Ecological Sciences, James Hutton Institute, Scotland

Mixed crop agriculture can describe anything from variety mixtures to arable rotations and agroforestry but the principles of enhanced function and resilience with diversity cross all scales.
They can give many benefits including enhanced yield, nutrient use efficiency, stability, abiotic and biotic stress resilience and enhancing biodiversity. However, translating the sound ecological principles into practical farm solutions on which food production and farm incomes rely can be very challenging.
The unreliability or unpredictability of outcomes often encountered illustrates the gaps in our understanding and where we might focus next. I will give some examples of these challenges at different scales addressing questions such as: what species to mix, how many components, how they should be sown, how can they be harvested, how much fertiliser should be used, and many others. And you can help me figure-out how some recent (unpublished) data from some variety mixtures trials might help explain some of the inconsistencies of mixed cropping.

Martin Weih, Department of Crop Production Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden

Based on a brief overview of the scientific evidence for increased productivity in mixed crops compared to monocrops, the presentation will address the related issues of yield stability in pure vs. mixed crops, and reflect the role of crop diversity per se as opposed to the importance of mixture component identity.
Examples from cereal-legume mixtures will be discussed, together with those from species/variety mixtures of willows (Salix spp.) grown for biomass on agricultural land; the examples will depart from the individual plant/trait level and expand to the ecosystem level by integrating ecosystem processes beyond the individual plant/trait level.