Document Type : Research Article
Depertment of Agronomy, Sari University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Sari, Iran
Intercropping cultivation is an excellent method to increase agricultural productivity per unit area based on environmental mechanisms. In this planting system, it is necessary to select crops with different capabilities in uptake resources and establish a complementary relationship. However, legumes in intercropping cultivation can be used an alternative and sustainable way to increase efficiency. Besides, it is necessary to study the interactions in the above and belowground parts to achieve the mentioned goals. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate inter-specific interactions in millet and soybean intercropping cultures.
Material and Methods
A field experiment was conducted for two years (2018-19) at the research farm of Sari agricultural science and natural resources university, Iran (33º, 36ʹ N, 53º, 03ʹ E with 43 m altitude). The experimental design was a randomized complete block with four replications. The experimental treatment was 75% Soybean + 25% Niger, 50% Soybean + 50% Niger, 25% Soybean+75%Niger based on the replacement method and monoculture. This study investigated the agronomic traits, LAI, TDW, nitrogen derived from the atmosphere, and total microbial activity in the soil in different planting ratios.
Result and Discussion
The results showed that soybean monoculture had the highest plant height during different stages of growth. Furthermore, with the increase in the share of planting soybean in intercropping cultivation, the shoot height of the millet also increased. Also, unlike the millet, the soybean succeeded in producing more leaf area indexes among different mixed cultivation ratios than monoculture. The leaf area index of millet showed a significant decrease as the proportion of soybean plantings increased. However, despite this decrease, the total dry matter of soybean exhibited a higher percentage increase at various growth stages compared to the decrease in millet yield. As a result, after 60 days of planting, the intercropping cultivation of millet and soybean demonstrated positive complementarity in terms of competition impact. Additionally, the intercropping cultivation showed a higher percentage of nitrogen derived from the atmosphere compared to soybean monoculture. During the study period, the planting ratio of 75% millet and 25% soybean exhibited the highest increase in nitrogen fixation (Ndfa), with average values of 93.84% and 83.85% at 90 days after planting, respectively. Increasing the number of millet sowing rows in the intercropping patterns played a crucial role in intensifying competition with soybeans during the early growth stages and had an impact on the biological activity of soybeans. Moreover, the microbial activity in the soil (at a depth of 0-30 cm) was higher in the different intercropping ratios compared to monocultures of soybean and millet. In addition, soybean and millet monoculture had the highest and lowest grain yields. Among the different intercropping ratios, the 75:25 in 1398 with an average of 4639.77 kg. ha-1 had the highest grain yield. Besides, the planting ratio of 25:75 and 50:50, with an average of 1.23 and 1.02, respectively, had an LER higher than one. With increasing the share of soybean planting in intercropping, the competitiveness of the plant increases, and the competition ratio of millet was higher than the unit only in the planting ratio of 25:75 (millet-soybean). Therefore, the competitiveness of millet in mixed cultivation is significantly reduced by reducing the share of planting row. Finally, increasing productivity in the 25:75 combinations reduced soybean's competitive dominance, increasing millet grain yield in comparison to expected values and improving total microbial activity.
Due to limited growth period, millet had competition played an essential role in increasing total microbial activity and the percentage of nitrogen derived from the atmosphere at a 25:75 planting ratio before the initial reproductive growth. In addition, 25:75 and 50:50 planting ratios reduce soybean's competitive dominance, resulting in enhanced productivity. Finally, the selection of complementary plants based on physiological, morphological characteristics, and competitiveness in intercropping cultivation can be effective in the above and belowground interactions.