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Diversity increases yield but reduces harvest index in crop mixtures.


ABSTRACT: Resource allocation to reproduction is a critical trait for plant fitness1,2. This trait, called harvest index in the agricultural context3-5, determines how plant biomass is converted to seed yield and consequently financial revenue from numerous major staple crops. While plant diversity has been demonstrated to increase plant biomass6-8, plant diversity effects on seed yield of crops are ambiguous9 and dependent on the production syndrome10. This discrepancy might be explained through changes in the proportion of resources invested in reproduction in response to changes in plant diversity, namely through changes in species interactions and microenvironmental conditions11-14. Here, we show that increasing crop plant diversity from monocultures over two- to four-species mixtures increased annual primary productivity, resulting in overall higher plant biomass and, to a lesser extent, higher seed yield in mixtures compared with monocultures. The difference between the two responses to diversity was due to a reduced harvest index of the eight tested crop species in mixtures, possibly because their common cultivars have been bred for maximum performance in monoculture. While crop diversification provides a sustainable measure of agricultural intensification15, the use of currently available cultivars may compromise larger gains in seed yield. We therefore advocate regional breeding programmes for crop varieties to be used in mixtures that should exploit complementarity16 among crop species.

PROVIDER: S-EPMC7611346 | BioStudies |

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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