In a future exposed to threats of climate change, sustainable biomass production will be crucial. Maize (Zea mays
) and sorghum (Sorghum
sp.) are important crops for human and animal nutrition, as well as for bioenergy. The aim of this study was to investigate maize and sorghum in mixed cropping with soybean (Glycine max
) and faba bean (Vicia faba
) regarding biomass yield, drought tolerance, phosphorus (P) availability, and enzyme activity in soil as affected by the single and combined effects of water and P supply in two outdoor pot trials with rainout shelters. Maize had the highest biomass under sufficient water supply (80% water holding capacity, WHC), but a sharp decrease of its biomass of about 60% was measured when water was limited (30% WHC). In the mixtures, drought induced reduction of biomass was less than 40%. For mixed cropping usually higher contents of labile P fractions in soil than for sole cropped monocots were found. This was especially true for the combined stress of water and P deficit and can be partly explained by a higher activity of the acid phosphatase in the soil of the mixtures. A higher yield stability of the crop mixtures makes them a suitable agronomic alternative to sole cropped maize or sorghum under suboptimal conditions of water and P shortage.
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