Radiation- and water-use associated with growth and yields of wheat and chickpea in sole and mixed crops

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Journal Article
European Journal of Agronomy, 2007, 26 (3), pp. 275 - 282
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A renewed interest in mixed cropping for its potential to boost yields through increased capture and use of solar radiation and soil-water by the component species. This led to the present study, in which we assessed the performance of wheat and chickpea, grown as sole crops or mixed at half their sole crop populations for their capacity to capture and use solar radiation and soil-water. Trials were conducted in the drought season of 1994 and with or without supplementary irrigation in an average rainfall season of 1995. For the rainfed crops in both years, there was no advantage of mixed crops over wheat grown as a sole crop (wheat-s) either in terms of green area index (GAI), fraction of photosynthetically active radiation intercepted by the canopy (iPAR), dry matter (DM) or grain yield produced. The lack of a yield advantage of mixed cropping was associated with poor canopy development and low yielding capacity of chickpea; it was unable to compensate for its reduced population density in the mixture. Grain yield for chickpea in the mixed crop (chickpea-m) averaged just 29% that of its sole crop (chickpea-s), whereas wheat grown in mixture (wheat-m) produced 72% the yield for wheat-s. Supplementary irrigation from early spring onwards in 1995 increased yield for chickpea-m by 44% over that of chickpea-s, while yield for wheat-m fell to 65% that for wheat-s. Every millimetre of irrigation water increased yield by 10.0, 3.8 and 12.5 kg ha-1for wheat-s, mixed crop and chickpea-s, respectively. Mixed cropping did not affect the time taken by either wheat or chickpea to attain maximum growth rate, flowering or maturity. The land equivalent ratio (LER) based on grain yields for wheat-chickpea intercropping were 1.01 in 1994, 1.02 without irrigation in 1995, and 1.10 with irrigation in 1995. Neither radiation-use-efficiency nor water-use-efficiency was improved by mixed cropping compared with wheat-s. The poor performance of the mixed crop was ascribed to its poor canopy development early in the season, especially by the chickpea that resulted in low iPARand transpiration. It is concluded that there was no advantage of growing wheat and chickpea in mixed crops in southern cereal belts of Australia if total biomass or grain yield is the primary purpose. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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