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Ecological principles to guide the development of crop variety mixtures


Kopp, Emanuel Balthasar; Niklaus, Pascal A; Wuest, Samuel E (2023). Ecological principles to guide the development of crop variety mixtures. Journal of Plant Ecology, 16(6):rtad017.

Abstract

Crop variety mixtures can provide many benefits, including pathogen suppression and increased yield and yield stability. However, these benefits do not necessarily occur in all mixtures, and the benefits of diversity may be compromised by disadvantages due to increased crop heterogeneity. In-field development of mixtures by assembling many combinations of crop genotypes without prior expectation about which genotypes need to be combined to produce well-performing mixtures results in prohibitively large designs. Therefore, effective tools are required to narrow down the number of promising variety mixtures, and to then identify in experiments which of these deliver the highest benefits. Here, we first review current knowledge about the mechanisms underlying effects in ecological diversity experiments and in current agricultural applications. We then discuss some of the principal difficulties arising in the application of this knowledge to develop good variety mixtures. We also discuss non-conventional approaches to solve some of these issues. In particular, we highlight the potential and limitations of trait-based methods to determine good variety mixing partners, and argue that nontraditional traits and trait-derived metrics may be needed for the trait-based approach to deliver its full potential. Specifically, we argue that good mixing partners can be identified using modern genetic and genomic approaches. Alternatively, good mixtures may be obtained by combining varieties that respond differently to environmental variation; such varieties could easily be identified in standard variety testing trials. Preliminary analyses show that niche differences underlying the different environmental responses can indicate functional complementarity and promote mixture yield and yield stability.

Abstract

Crop variety mixtures can provide many benefits, including pathogen suppression and increased yield and yield stability. However, these benefits do not necessarily occur in all mixtures, and the benefits of diversity may be compromised by disadvantages due to increased crop heterogeneity. In-field development of mixtures by assembling many combinations of crop genotypes without prior expectation about which genotypes need to be combined to produce well-performing mixtures results in prohibitively large designs. Therefore, effective tools are required to narrow down the number of promising variety mixtures, and to then identify in experiments which of these deliver the highest benefits. Here, we first review current knowledge about the mechanisms underlying effects in ecological diversity experiments and in current agricultural applications. We then discuss some of the principal difficulties arising in the application of this knowledge to develop good variety mixtures. We also discuss non-conventional approaches to solve some of these issues. In particular, we highlight the potential and limitations of trait-based methods to determine good variety mixing partners, and argue that nontraditional traits and trait-derived metrics may be needed for the trait-based approach to deliver its full potential. Specifically, we argue that good mixing partners can be identified using modern genetic and genomic approaches. Alternatively, good mixtures may be obtained by combining varieties that respond differently to environmental variation; such varieties could easily be identified in standard variety testing trials. Preliminary analyses show that niche differences underlying the different environmental responses can indicate functional complementarity and promote mixture yield and yield stability.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
07 Faculty of Science > Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center
08 Research Priority Programs > Global Change and Biodiversity
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Physical Sciences > Ecology
Life Sciences > Plant Science
Uncontrolled Keywords:Plant Science, Ecology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 December 2023
Deposited On:24 Jan 2024 15:13
Last Modified:30 Jun 2024 01:37
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1752-993X
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/jpe/rtad017
Project Information:
  • : FunderSwiss National Science Foundation
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • : FunderUniversity of Zurich Research Priority Program Global Change and Biodiversity
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)