Yield response to plant density of maize and sunflower intercropped with soybean

L. Echarte, A. Della Maggiora, D. Cerrudo, V. H. Gonzalez, P. Abbate, A. Cerrudo, V. O. Sadras, P. Calviño

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Maize-soybean and sunflower-soybean intercrops have the potential for increasing yield per unit land area and time in fully mechanized farming systems. The objectives of this work were to measure the land equivalent ratio index of maize and sunflower intercropped to soybean, to assess the effects of plant density of its components, and to gain insight into ecophysiological processes affecting their yield determination. Maize-soybean and sunflower-soybean intercrops and their respective sole crops were grown at Balcarce, Argentina during two growing seasons. Treatments included a wide range of plant densities for sole and intercropped sunflower (2-9 plantsm-2) and maize (4-12 plantsm-2). Plants were harvested to determine shoot dry matter and grain yield per plot and at the individual plant level. Land equivalent ratio index (LER) increased 11% (mean of the two years) when plant density of sunflower was reduced from 6 to 3 plantsm-2; and LER increased 5% (year 1) or it was maintained (year 2) when maize plant density was reduced from 8 to 4 plantsm-2. Yield response to plant density of sunflower and maize influenced LER. The response to plant density of intercropped sunflower and maize grain yield followed the same pattern than that in a sole crop, and grain yield of intercropped sunflower or maize were lower than those for the sole crops at each plant density except at the lowest sunflower plant density. Yield reductions from sole crop to intercrop at each plant density averaged 20% and were associated (i) with lower intra-row spacing in the intercrop and (ii) with a lower shoot production rather than to a change in the dry matter partitioning to reproductive structures; in addition, detrimental effects of soybean over maize or sunflower yield were undetectable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-429
Number of pages7
JournalField Crops Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 3 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria (INTA); Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata; ANPCYT, CIC, UNESCO-L’oreal. Thanks to Pioneer and Monsanto for providing the seeds and to summer students (Federico Cuesta, Pablo Rivera and Federico Tortolo) for their hard work during the cropping seasons. VOS is an affiliate member of University of Adelaide.


  • Intercrops
  • Maize
  • Plant density
  • Soybean
  • Sunflower


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