Most of research on intercrops evaluates performances and interference between species on the basis of final yield, while little knowledge is available on the interference in early stages and at the root level, at least for cultivated intercrops. In fact, in the few studies on this subject species are often combined minding at experimental needs (e.g. common substrate, temperature and water requirements, easy root separation) more than at their actual use in the farm. The present work evaluates interspecific interference during early developmental stages for two intercrops of agricultural interest: soft wheat-faba bean and rapeseed-squarrosum clover. Improving this knowledge would help intercrop growth modelling and rational cultivation. The experiments were carried out on soft wheat (Triticum aestivum), faba bean (Vicia faba var. minor), rapeseed (Brassica napus var. oleifera) and squarrosum clover (Trifolium squarrosum), germinated and grown until 32 days after sowing (DAS) as one-species stands or as wheat/faba bean and rapeseed/squarrosum clover intercrops, with different densities and proportions for the two species in each couple. Germination was studied in controlled-temperature chamber, plantlet growth was studied on pots in the greenhouse. During germination no interspecific interference was observed for both wheat/faba bean and rapeseed/squarrosum clover intercrops. During plantlet growth, interspecific interference occurred in both intercrops causing variations in whole plant and root dry matter accumulation. In the wheat/faba bean intercrop each species suffered from the competitive effect of the companion species and faba bean was the dominant species when present in lower proportion than wheat. The unexpectedly high aggressivity of faba bean may be explained either with the greater seed size that could have represented an initial advantage within the short duration of the experiment or with the competition towards wheat for substrate N which is not usual in the open field for a N fixing species. In the rapeseed/squarrosum clover intercrop, rapeseed was facilitated by squarrosum clover, while squarrosum clover suffered from the competitive effect of rapeseed, which was the dominant species. The resource use efficiency of intercrops as compared to that of one-species crops was lower in the wheat/faba bean couple, not much different in the rapeseed/squarrosum clover one. In both couples, the best performance was observed when the ratio of the dominant species was lower than that of the companion species (number of plants in the ratio 1:3).
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