Maintaining and enhancing soil fertility are key issues for sustainability in an agricultural system with organic or low input methods. On-farm–produced green manure as a source of soil organic matter (SOM) plays a critical role in long-term productivity. But producing green manure requires land and water; thus, increasing biodiversity, such as by intercropping with green manure crops, could be an approach to enhance the efficiency of renewable resources especially in developing countries. This article discusses soil fertility and its maintenance and enhancement with leguminous intercropping from four points of view: soil fertility and organic matter function, leguminous green manure, intercropping principles, and soil conservation. Important contributions of leguminous intercropping include SOM enhancement and fertility building, biological nitrogen (N) and other plant nutrition availability. Under a well-designed and managed system, competition between the target and intercropping crops can be reduced. The plant uptake efficiency of biologically fixed N is estimated to be double that of industrial N fertilizers. After N-rich plant residues are incorporated into soil, the carbon (C):nitrogen ratio of added straw decreases. Another high mitigation potential of legume intercropping lies in soil conservation by preventing soil and water erosion. Many opportunities exist to introduce legumes in short-term rotation, intercropping, living mulch, and cover crops in an organically managed farm system. Worldwide, long-term soil fertility enhancement remains a challenge due to the current world population and agricultural practices. Cropping system including legumes is a step in the right direction to meeting the needs of food security and sustainability.
Part of the book: Organic Fertilizers