Shading and competition for mineral nutrients by grass impair legume functions and production in mixed cropping systems. Sustained stress from competition and adverse environments contribute to shortened legume life spans in such cropping systems. This creates negative consequences to forage productivity. There are opportunities to solve the challenge of legume persistence by understanding species traits and plant community dynamics that foster coexistence and complementary resource use. Together with species’ unique ability to tolerate adverse soil factors such as water stress, acidity and salinity, self-seeding, and shade tolerance are positive traits among legume species that grow in mixed crops. In communities, converging leaf and shoot conformations as well as asynchrony in dry matter distribution among species can avert negative effects of species competition. While seeding ratios can influence forage production and quality, management including harvest frequency and optimizing phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) fertilizers have crucial roles in perpetuating legume growth and function in mixtures with grass. Some facts on species competition for light, water, and nutrient resources; shade avoidance; and biodiversity mechanisms are highlighted in this chapter.
Part of the book: Plant Competition in Cropping Systems