Plant Breeding for Intercropping in Temperate Field Crop Systems: A Review

Virginia M. Moore, Brandon Schlautman, Shui Zhang Fei, Lucas M. Roberts, Marnin Wolfe, Matthew R. Ryan, Samantha Wells, Aaron J. Lorenz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Monoculture cropping systems currently dominate temperate agroecosystems. However, intercropping can provide valuable benefits, including greater yield stability, increased total productivity, and resilience in the face of pest and disease outbreaks. Plant breeding efforts in temperate field crops are largely focused on monoculture production, but as intercropping becomes more widespread, there is a need for cultivars adapted to these cropping systems. Cultivar development for intercropping systems requires a systems approach, from the decision to breed for intercropping systems through the final stages of variety testing and release. Design of a breeding scheme should include information about species variation for performance in intercropping, presence of genotype × management interaction, observation of key traits conferring success in intercropping systems, and the specificity of intercropping performance. Together this information can help to identify an optimal selection scheme. Agronomic and ecological knowledge are critical in the design of selection schemes in cropping systems with greater complexity, and interaction with other researchers and key stakeholders inform breeding decisions throughout the process. This review explores the above considerations through three case studies: (1) forage mixtures, (2) perennial groundcover systems (PGC), and (3) soybean-pennycress intercropping. We provide an overview of each cropping system, identify relevant considerations for plant breeding efforts, describe previous breeding focused on the cropping system, examine the extent to which proposed theoretical approaches have been implemented in breeding programs, and identify areas for future development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number843065
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
StatePublished - Mar 31 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was in part supported by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Awards #2019-67012-34886 and #2017-67019-26370.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Moore, Schlautman, Fei, Roberts, Wolfe, Ryan, Wells and Lorenz.


  • agroecology
  • ecosystem services
  • intercropping
  • plant breeding
  • polyculture
  • sustainable cropping systems

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Review


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