Intercropping of cereal and legume can improve the use of resources for crop growth compared to cropping system. An increase in soil phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) acquisition by root-induced biochemical changes of intercropped species has been reported as key processes of facilitation and complementarily between both intercropping legumes and cereals. Indeed, the functional facilitation prevails over interspecific competition under nutrients limiting for crop growth. Results showed that P availability significantly increased in the rhizosphere of both species, especially in intercropping under the P-deficient soil conditions. This increase was associated with high efficiency efficiency in use of rhizobial, plant growth and resource use efficiency as indicated by higher land equivalent ratio (LER) and N nutrition index. In addition, the rhizosphere P availability and nodule biomass were positively correlated (r2 = 0.71**, and r2 = 0.62**) in the intercropped common bean grown at P-deficient soil. The increased P availability presumably improved biomass and yield in intercropping, although it mainly enhanced intercropped maize grain yield. Exploiting belowground parameters in a legume-cereal intercropping is likely necessary to maximize rhizosphere-interspecific interactions as a strategy to improve the symbiotic rhizobial efficiency and microbial activities, as a result of root-induced pH and N availability changes under low P soils.
Part of the book: Grain Legumes