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               16 IFOAM Organic World Congress, Modena, Italy, June 16-20, 2008
                   Archived at http://orgprints.org/view/projects/conference.html

                Experiences with intercropping design –
          a survey about pulse cereal-combinations in Europe
von Fragstein und Niemsdorff, P.1, Trydeman Knudsen, M. 2, Gooding, M.J.3, Dibet, A.4
                                     & Monti, M.5

Key words: Intercropping, cereal grain legume combinations, survey, European
countries, EU project

A survey was carried out within five European countries with regard to the practice of
cereal grain legume intercropping. The mostly given combination was spring barley-
spring pea beside 27 other combinations between pulses and cereals. 72 % of all
examples consisted of spring varieties, the rest of winter varieties, mainly a special
case of the French South West with mild winter climate. Intercrops were mainly used
for feeding purposes. Best experiences were named as better yield stability, effective
weed suppression, and good quality of feed. Of the negative experiences complicated
mechanical weed regulation, unequal maturation and additional costs for separation
were mostly named. The interviewed farmers showed predominantly positive
prospects for the development of intercropping on their farms, problems with sowing
techniques were only of minor importance.

Intercropping per se corresponds to a very high extent to the concept of increased
biodiversity within organic crop husbandry. It is mostly realised in multi-species
mixtures of perennual pastures, partly in green manuring or undersowing approaches,
much less in cultivation of main crops (Gliessman 2000). The latter aspects was focus
of one workpackage of a European project <Intercropping of cereals and grain
legumes for increased production, weed control, improved product quality and
prevention of N-losses in European organic farming systems (QLK5-CT-2002-02352)>
in order to record the daily practice, the experiences and the prospects of that
cropping design within the farming community of organic farmers in Denmark, France,
Italy, United Kingdom, and Germany.

Materials and methods
The survey was carried out in each country of the project partners by personal farm
visits. A common questionnaire consisted mainly of questions concerning
intercropping, farm structure and personal estimations, experiences and demands. All

    University of Kassel, Department of Organic Farming & Cropping Systems, Nordbahnhofstr. 1a,
    D37213, Witzenhausen, Germany, email pvf@mail.wiz.uni-kassel.de
    Danish Research Centre for Organic Food and Farming,Foulum, P.O. Box 50, DK-8830 Tjele,
    Department of Agriculture, The University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AT, UK
    Laboratoire d’Ecophysiologie et Agronomie, École Supérieure d’Agriculture, 49007 Angers
    Cedex 01, France.
    Department of Agrochemistry and Agrobilogy, Università “Mediterranea” di Reggio Calabria,
    89061 Gallina-Reggio Calabria, Italy
             16 IFOAM Organic World Congress, Modena, Italy, June 16-20, 2008
                 Archived at http://orgprints.org/view/projects/conference.html

data of 65 interviews were collected through an online php-based input mask, stored
in a mysql database and finally statistically evaluated by SPSS.

The use of intercropping design in the organic farms was mainly initiated from 1981 on
(table 1), approximately 90 % of all counts could be referred to that period. Between
1981 and 1990 it was mainly implemented on German farms, followed by French and
Danish farms. Ten years later most of the Danish (and French) farmers integrated
intercropping into crop husbandry. After 2000 another 11 % followed into the same
direction (DK > FR > UK). That also reflects the different periods of conversion.
Among the German group there was a longer experience of organic farming practice
compared to the colleagues of the other countries.

Table 1: Since when intercropping was used? (% of all counts)
          Year           (N)         (%)          DE          UK          FR         IT         DK
        – 1970             2          3.1         3.1
   1971 – 1980             5          7.7         3.1                  3.1                      1.5
   1981 – 1990            19        29.2         15.4                  9.2                      4.6
   1991 – 2000            32        49.2          7.7         1.5     13.8          7.7        18.5
        > 2000             7        10.8                      1.5      3.1                      6.2
     Counts [N]           65                     19.0         2.0     19.0          5.0        20.0

As reasons for intercropping six criteriae were named out of which intercrops for the
production of feed was most prominent, especially in DE, DK and FR (table 2).
Production for the market was the second criterium although the marketing due to
necessary separation can only be realized with additional efforts and costs (table 5).
Soil conservation was specified as third reason for working with intercropping, but on a
distinctly lower level. The other criteria can be assessed as negligible with regard to
number and relevance for the daily practice.
Table 2: Reasons for the use of intercrops (% of all counts)
             Year        (N)         (%)          DE          UK       FR            IT         DK
             Feed         39        60.0         23.1         1.5     16.9                     18.5
           Market         18        27.7                              12.3          4.6        10.8
 Soil conservation         5          7.7         4.6                               3.1
   Demonstration           1          1.5                                                       1.5
         Research          1          1.5                     1.5
 Seed production           1          1.5         1.5
        Counts [N]        65                     19.0         2.0     19.0          5.0        20.0

Table 3: Number of components per                       Table 4: Frequency of spring and
mixture (% per country)                                 winter types (% per country)
  No components      DE UK     FR  IT       DK          Variety      DE     UK     FR     IT    DK
  2                  52 100    72 100       80          Spring       96    100     24     60    95
  3                  39        10           15          Winter        4            76     40     5
  4                   6        14            5          Counts [N]   27        1   29      5    40
  5                   3         3
  Counts [N]         31   1    29   5       41
              16 IFOAM Organic World Congress, Modena, Italy, June 16-20, 2008
                  Archived at http://orgprints.org/view/projects/conference.html

Although intercropping in most cases and countries relied on 2 component mixtures
(table 3), 3- and more component mixtures were also appointed, mainly in DE, DK and
FR. Most of the specified examples for intercrops were build up with spring pea
(22 %), spring barley (22 %), oats (13 %), winter pea (9 %) and winter triticale (9 %).
Of 28 different combinations for used intercrops three examples covered >50 % of all
combinations: (A) spring barley-spring pea (24 %), (B) spring barley-spring oats-spring
pea (15 %) and (C) winter pea-winter triticale (15 %). The latter example is a special
situation of the mild winter climate in the South West of France. Example (A) was
grown on 513 ha, example (C) on 200 ha. (table 4). There was a clear distinction
between the mixtures of Danish farmers on the one hand (prevalence of pulses), and
French and German farmers on the other hand (prevalence of cereals).
Farmers were asked about positve and negative experiences and estimations of
intercrops (table 5). Of the 13 arguments emphasizing the benefit of mixed cropping
systems yield stability, effective weed suppression, good quality of feed, easier
harvest, good precrop effect, and less pests and diseases covered > 60 % of all
answers. The opposite perspective was seen with regard to more complicated
mechanical weed control (15 %), unequal maturation (11 %), problems due to lodging
and additional costs for separation (7 %).
Table 5: Advantages and disadvantages of intercropping?
   Positive                                    (%)   Negative                              (%)
   Yield stability                              15   Mechanical weeding more complicated    15
   Effective weed suppression                   12   Unequal maturation                     11
   Good feed                                    11   Problems due to lodging                 7
   Easier harvest                                9   Additional costs for separation         7
   Good precrop effect                           9   IC mixture at harvest unpredictable     6
   Less pests & diseases                         7   Marketing of mixed seeds                4
   Less lodging risk for peas                   4    Problems to preserve                   4
   Less labour                                  2    Grain losses at harvest                4
   Better use of resources                      2    Undersowing difficult in IC            2
   More flexibility in rotational management    2
   Higher yield                                 2
   Higher diversity                             2
   Compensation                                 2

Table 6: Prospects of intercropping?
 Entries                              (%)
 Maintain area                         27
 Expand area                           13
 IC with lupins                        11
 Change mixture                        11
 Change sowing technique                6
 Reduce area                            5

Among the group of interviewed farmers at least 40 % of the answers indicated
maintenance and expansion of the area of intercropping in the next future of crop
husbandry (table 6). Changes of the composition of mixtures were named as other
             16 IFOAM Organic World Congress, Modena, Italy, June 16-20, 2008
                 Archived at http://orgprints.org/view/projects/conference.html

aspects of wanted improvements of the intercrops. Aspects i.e. change of sowing
technique or reduction of growing area were appointed less common.

The results of the survey reflect the findings of Rauber & Hof (2003) to a high extent.
The positive experiences about better weed suppression are in accordance with
findings of Hauggard et al. (2006), Jensen (2006) and Trenbath (1993). Technical
problems such as adequate mechanical tools for sowing and weeding were not so
much emphasized by the farmers as done by interviewed advisors within the study of
Rauber & Hof (2003), but belonged to the mentioned obstacles towards the use of
intercropping. There is a distinct tendency for simple combinations, most of the
appointed examples consisted of 2 or 3 components. Thus the claim for increased
biodiversity by cultivation of intercropped pulses and cereals is of limited value and
should be supported by further genom intercrops i.e. mixtures of cultivars within the
species (Finckh 2001). The longest experiences were found on organic farms in
Denmark, France and Germany, whereas very limited numbers of farmers with
intercrop experiences could be found in United Kingdom and Italy. Therefore most of
the conclusions are related to the Danish, French and German data.

Intercropping provides distinct benefits for organic farming systems. That is also true
for the combination of pulses and cereals. It is desirable that scientific work is more
concerned with related questions in order to convince advisors of these systems and
to encourage practitioners to implement more of such cropping designs into their
cultivation plans.

This work was financed out of funds of the EU 5th framework.

Finckh, M.R. (2001): Biodiversität in der Pflanzenzucht aus der Sicht der Phytopathologie und der
     Ökologischen Landwirtschaft. In: „Nutzung genetischer Ressourcen – ökologischer Wert der
     Biodiversität“, K. Hammer & T. Gladis (Hrsg.), ZADI, Bonn, S. 155-170.
Gliessman, S.R. (2000): Agroecology – ecological processes in sustainable agriculture. Lewis
      Publishers, Boca Raton.
Hauggaard-Nielsen, H.; Andersen, M.; Jornsgaard, B. & Jensen, E. (2006): Density and relative
    frequency effects on competitive interactions and resource use in pea-barley intercrops.
    Field Crops Research 95: 256-267.
Trenbath, B. R. (1993): Intercropping       for the management        of pests and     diseases.
     Field Crops Research 34: 381-405.
Rauber, R.& Hof, C. (2003): Fertigen einer Broschüre zum Anbau von Gemengen für die Praxis
    des Ökologischen Pflanzenbaus. Schlussbericht Geschäftsstelle Bundesprogramm
    Ökologischer Landbau, Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung (BLE), Bonn. 87 S.
    http://www.orgprints.org/4746, (accessed: 2005-02-03)
Jensen, E.S. (ed.) (2006): Intercropping of cereals and grain legumes for increased production,
     weed control, improved product quality and prevention of N-losses in European organic
     farming systems. Final Report of EU project (QLK5-CT-2002-02352), 383 p.
     http://www.intercrop.dk (accessed: 2006-12-02)

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