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Current knowledge and future research opportunities for modeling annual crop mixtures. A review

Gaudio N., Escobar-Gutièrrez A., Casadebaig P., Evers J., Gérard F., Louarn G., Colbach N., Munz S., Launay M., Marrou H., Barillot R., Hinsinger P., Bergez J.E., Combes D., Durand J.L., Frak E., Pagès L., Pradal C., Saint-Jean S., Van Der Werf W., Justes E.. 2019. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 39 (2) : 20 p..

DOI: 10.1007/s13593-019-0562-6

Growing mixtures of annual arable crop species or genotypes is a promising way to improve crop production without increasing agricultural inputs. To design optimal crop mixtures, choices of species, genotypes, sowing proportion, plant arrangement, and sowing date need to be made but field experiments alone are not sufficient to explore such a large range of factors. Crop modeling allows to study, understand and ultimately design cropping systems and is an established method for sole crops. Recently, modeling started to be applied to annual crop mixtures as well. Here, we review to what extent crop simulation models and individual-based models are suitable to capture and predict the specificities of annual crop mixtures. We argued that: 1) The crop mixture spatio-temporal heterogeneity (influencing the occurrence of ecological processes) determines the choice of the modeling approach (plant or crop centered). 2) Only few crop models (adapted from sole crop models) and individual-based models currently exist to simulate annual crop mixtures. 3) Crop models are mainly used to address issues related to crop mixtures management and to the integration of crop mixtures into larger scales such as the rotation, whereas individual-based models are mainly used to identify plant traits involved in crop mixture performance and to quantify the relative contribution of the different ecological processes (niche complementarity, facilitation, competition, plasticity) to crop mixture functioning. This review highlights that modeling of annual crop mixtures is in its infancy and gives to model users some important keys to choose the model based on the questions they want to answer, with awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the modeling approaches.

Mots-clés : plante de couverture; culture sous couvert végétal; plante annuelle; mélange de semences; modèle mathématique; modélisation; culture intercalaire

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