Study Finds Crops Adapt Quickly to Intercropping

Swiss research published in eLife shows that crops bred for monoculture can adapt over just two generations to growing in a multispecies environment. Researchers say the three-year study didn’t provide time for genetic adaptation, but it probably allowed plants with existing genotypic variation to select particular genotypes. Plots of wheat, oat, lentil, flax, camelina, and coriander mix grew taller in two generations, although yields didn’t increase. “Our findings have important implications for the shift to more diversified agriculture,” concludes senior author Christian Schöb. “They suggest breeding plants to grow in mixed-species plots may further improve yields and reduce the need for fertilizer and other harmful practices.”