Rapid transgenerational adaptation in response to intercropping reduces competition

  1. Laura Stefan  Is a corresponding author
  2. Nadine Engbersen
  3. Christian Schöb
  1. Agroscope, Switzerland
  2. ETH Zurich, Switzerland
  3. Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Spain

Abstract

By capitalising on positive biodiversity-productivity relationships, intercropping provides opportunities to improve agricultural sustainability. Intercropping is generally implemented using commercial seeds that were bred for maximal productivity in monocultures, thereby ignoring the ability of plants to adapt over generations to the surrounding neighbourhood, notably through increased complementarity, i.e. reduced competition or increased facilitation. This is why using monoculture-adapted seeds for intercropping might limit the benefits of crop diversity on yield. However, the adaptation potential of crops and the corresponding changes in complementarity have not been explored in annual crop systems. Here we show that plant-plant interactions among annual crops shifted towards reduced competition and/or increased facilitation when the plants were growing in the same community type as their parents did in the previous two generations. Total yield did not respond to this common coexistence history, but in fertilized conditions, we observed increased overyielding in mixtures with a common coexistence history. Surprisingly, we observed character convergence between species sharing the same coexistence history for two generations, in monocultures but also in mixtures: the six crop species tested converged towards taller phenotypes with lower leaf dry matter content. This study provides the first empirical evidence for the potential of parental diversity affecting plant-plant interactions, species complementarity and therefore potentially ecosystem functioning of the following generations in annual cropping systems. Although further studies are required to assess the context-dependence of these results, our findings may still have important implications for diversified agriculture as they illustrate the potential of targeted cultivars to increase complementarity of species in intercropping, which could be achieved through specific breeding for mixtures.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available on Zenodo: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5223410

The following data sets were generated

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Laura Stefan

    Plant Production Systems, Agroscope, Nyon, Switzerland
    For correspondence
    laura.stefan@m4x.org
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-0798-9782
  2. Nadine Engbersen

    Institute of Agricultural Sciences, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Christian Schöb

    Área de Biodiversidad y Conservación, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Móstoles, Spain
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Funding

Swiss National Science Fundation (PP00P3_170645)

  • Christian Schöb

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Bernhard Schmid, University of Zurich, Switzerland

Publication history

  1. Received: February 3, 2022
  2. Accepted: August 22, 2022
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: September 13, 2022 (version 1)

Copyright

© 2022, Stefan et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

Metrics

  • 856
    Page views
  • 279
    Downloads
  • 0
    Citations

Article citation count generated by polling the highest count across the following sources: Crossref, PubMed Central, Scopus.

Download links

A two-part list of links to download the article, or parts of the article, in various formats.

Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)

Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)

Cite this article (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)

  1. Laura Stefan
  2. Nadine Engbersen
  3. Christian Schöb
(2022)
Rapid transgenerational adaptation in response to intercropping reduces competition
eLife 11:e77577.
https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.77577

Further reading

    1. Ecology
    Ines Braga Goncalves, Andrew N Radford
    Research Article

    Conflicts with conspecific outsiders are common in group-living species, from ants to primates, and are argued to be an important selective force in social evolution. However, whilst an extensive empirical literature exists on the behaviour exhibited during and immediately after interactions with rivals, only very few observational studies have considered the cumulative fitness consequences of outgroup conflict. Using a cooperatively breeding fish, the daffodil cichlid (Neolamprologus pulcher), we conducted the first experimental test of the effects of chronic outgroup conflict on reproductive investment and output. ‘Intruded’ groups received long-term simulated territorial intrusions by neighbours that generated consistent group-defence behaviour; matched ‘Control’ groups (each the same size and with the same neighbours as an Intruded group) received no intrusions in the same period. Intruded groups had longer inter-clutch intervals and produced eggs with increasingly less protein than Control groups. Despite the lower egg investment, Intruded groups provided more parental care and achieved similar hatching success to Control groups. Ultimately, however, Intruded groups had fewer and smaller surviving offspring than Control groups at 1-month post-hatching. We therefore provide experimental evidence that outgroup conflict can decrease fitness via cumulative effects on reproductive success, confirming the selective potential of this empirically neglected aspect of sociality.

    1. Cell Biology
    2. Ecology
    Laura Christin Trautenberg, Marko Brankatschk ... Klaus Reinhardt
    Review Article

    Dietary lipids (DLs), particularly sterols and fatty acids, are precursors for endogenous lipids that, unusually for macronutrients, shape cellular and organismal function long after ingestion. These functions – cell membrane structure, intracellular signalling, and hormonal activity – vary with the identity of DLs, and scale up to influence health, survival, and reproductive fitness, thereby affecting evolutionary change. Our Ecological Lipidology approach integrates biochemical mechanisms and molecular cell biology into evolution and nutritional ecology. It exposes our need to understand environmental impacts on lipidomes, the lipid specificity of cell functions, and predicts the evolution of lipid-based diet choices. Broad interdisciplinary implications of Ecological Lipidology include food web alterations, species responses to environmental change, as well as sex differences and lifestyle impacts on human nutrition, and opportunities for DL-based therapies.