Crops Grown Together 'Cooperate' Better in Just Two Generations
Published:08 Nov.2022    Source:eLife

The findings provide preliminary evidence about how quickly crops bred for single-species, or 'monoculture', settings can adapt to growing with other crop species.

Growing multiple food crops together is a more sustainable farming practice mimicking highly productive wild plant communities. This process, known as intercropping, takes advantage of complementary features of different types of crops to maximise production and minimise the need for fertilisers and other environmentally harmful practices. For example, indigenous people in North America have long grown corn, beans and squash together to maximise the yield of each plant and reduce the need for watering or fertiliser.
"Most commercial crops, however, have been bred for traits that make them highly productive in single-crop settings," explains lead author Laura Stefan, a former PhD student at ETH Zurich and now a postdoctoral researcher at Agroscope, the Swiss Confederation's Institute for Agricultural Research. "These crops may not be well suited for growing in multi-crop systems, which may reduce the benefits of intercropping."