Case study 19: Sweden: Co-design with farmers of intercropping systems for food or feed

Cluster 4: Diversification through intercropping, with a special focus on grain legumes

Despite abundant research results showing agronomic and environmental benefits in grain legume/cereal intercrops compared to sole crops, intercropping is not as common practice as could be expected. The objective is therefore to engage farmers and other stakeholders in a participatory process to reveal drivers and barriers for intercropping of grain legumes and cereals in organic farming.

What are the main problems underlying the emergence of the case study?
Despite abundant research results showing agronomic and environmental benefits in grain legume/cereal intercrops when compared to sole crops, intercropping is not a common practice as could be expected. The objective is therefore to engage farmers and other stakeholders in a participatory process to reveal drivers and barriers for intercropping of grain legumes and cereals in organic farming.

How is the problem addressed and which actors are involved?
Two groups are taking part in the project to promote diversification through intercropping.
One group has been working since 2015 with intercropping in a collaborative research project concerning organic farming as initiated by SLU scientists. Another group is a self-mobilized farmer group of around 15 organic farms. The reason why both groups are chosen, is that we believe it is easier and more efficient for researchers to come into long-lasting, existing farmer groups instead of starting a new group.
Some have clearly expressed a willingness to continue discussing and testing cropping systems (including intercropping) for more competitive grain legume production. From a scientist and facilitator (Carlsson) point of view, there still seems to be unresolved questions around technology for growing, harvesting, and sorting intercrops that may contribute to barrier or lock-in effects. The self-mobilized group wishes to increase its knowledge in intercropping, weed management, biocontrol strategies, and more efficient food and feed production, increase their economic viability, and find new market and business models.

Solution investigated
There is a mutual interest in sharing experiences within the organic crop production of the self-mobilized farmers to develop the group members’ farm enterprises and crop production. The farmers have interests in R & D in crop production and in getting in contact with researchers and other experts. Therefore, the intention is to let the two groups have a mutual meeting in the summer.

Expected outcome
Scientists and advisors who initiated the case study expect that participatory research will stimulate the implementation of intercropping practices through developing ground-breaking products based on cereal, lentils, fava beans, lupine, and peas.

Contact

  • Anita Gunnarsson, Hushållningssällskapet Skåne, case study leader
  • Weronika Swiergel, SLU, case study monitor