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.
The data that support the findings of this study are available on Zenodo: https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5223410
- Christian Schöb
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Bernhard Schmid, University of Zurich, Switzerland
- Received: February 3, 2022
- Accepted: August 22, 2022
- Accepted Manuscript published: September 13, 2022 (version 1)
© 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.
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.
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