Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau FiBL, 5070 Frick, Schweiz

Improving the domestic protein supply with mixed cropping

Mixed cropping of grain legumes with cereals is a promising approach to economic and resourceefficient domestic production of protein plants. Since 2009, FiBL has established field trials in cooperation with organic farmers with a view to jointly developing suitable production methods under Swiss conditions. A range of seeding ratios as well as different combinations of species and cultivars have been tested. Standardised production methods developed to maturity are intercrops of protein peas with barley and field beans with oats, with both mixtures sown at 80 % and 40 % of the customary local monocrop seeding rates for the legumes and cereals respectively (and for both winter and spring crops). The cereal crop prevents the legumes from lodging, suppresses weeds, and offers risk protection should the grain legume not develop well. Average yields were 42 kg/100 m² for winter-sown pea-barley and 46.9 kg/100 m² for winter-sown field bean/oat intercrops. Only in isolated cases was the 30 % legume content required to qualify for the 1000 CHF/ha ‘subsidy for individual crops’ not reached. The area under organic peas and organic field beans has multiplied since 2010, and these crops are mostly grown as part of a mixed crop. This is due not least of all to the mills that buy up and separate intercrop harvests.

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