Sustainable intensification calls for agroecological and adaptive management of the agrifood system. Here, we focus on intercropping and how this agroecological practice can be used to increase the sustainability of crop production. Strip, mixed, and relay intercropping can be used to increase crop yields through resource partitioning and facilitation. In addition to achieving greater productivity, diversifying cropping systems through the use of strategic intercrops can increase yield stability, reduce pests, and improve soil health. Several intercropping systems are already implemented in industrialized agricultural landscapes, including mixed intercropping with perennial grasses and legumes as forage and relay intercropping with winter wheat and red clover. Because intercropping can provide numerous benefits, researchers should be clear about their objectives and use appropriate methods so as to not draw spurious conclusions when studying intercrops. In order to advance the practice, experiments that test the effects of intercropping should use standardized methodology, and researchers should report a set of common criteria to facilitate cross-study comparisons. Intercropping with two or more crops appears to be less common with annuals than perennials, which is likely due to differences in the mechanisms responsible for complementarity. One area where intercropping with annuals in industrialized agricultural landscapes has advanced is with cover crops, where private, public, and governmental organizations have harmonized efforts to increase the adoption of cover crop mixtures.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited