A 60% increase in agricultural production is required by 2050 to feed the growing global human population and there is increasing pressure to produce food sustainably with fewer inputs. Using crop species mixtures or ‘plant teams’ is one approach that can help increase efficiency and lessen harmful environmental impacts. Diverse crop systems can potentially enhance and stabilise crop yields, reduce pest and disease outbreaks, improve water quality, soil fertility and biodiversity, help with weed management, and provide greater resilience to environmental fluctuations and changes in management.
Crops can be grown together as companion crops to aid crop growth, as sacrificial crops to divert away from cash crops, or to provide ‘architecture’ to help other grow crops grow more successfully. We explore examples of cropping systems and management considerations, including some of the benefits and challenges, and innovations from farmers and scientists; linking in with the 4-year Horizon 2020-funded DIVERSify project.