Skip to main content Accessibility help


  • TANZEELUR RAHMAN (a1), LIN YE (a1), XIN LIU (a1), NASIR IQBAL (a1), JUNBO DU (a1), RENCAI GAO (a1), WEIGUO LIU (a1), FENG YANG (a1) (a2) and WENYU YANG (a1) (a2)...


Understanding crop water use in mixed crops over sole cropping is vital for developing optimum water management systems for crop production. In this study, a two-year field experiment with typical maize (Zea mays L.) and soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] relay strip intercropping (2:2 maize-to-soybean rows; 200 cm bandwidth) was carried out in the 2013 and 2014 growing seasons. The quantitative effects of various planting patterns on the water-use efficiency (WUE) and water distribution were investigated. Our results indicated that soil volumetric water content and soil evaporation in the intercropping systems showed decreasing trends in the order: maize row (MM) < maize-to-soybean row (MS) < soybean row (SS). The highest leaf transpiration (1.91 and 2.07 mmol m−2 s−1) for the intercropped maize was measured in each of the two years in the 20 cm maize narrow-row planting pattern and decreased thereafter. Opposite trend was observed for the intercropped soybean; the highest soybean leaf transpiration (7.01 and 6.80 mmol m−2 s−1 for 2013 and 2014, respectively) was recorded in the 70 cm. The WUE of maize and soybean intercrops was lower than that of sole crop counterparts. However, the maximum group water use efficiency (GWUE) of 26.08 and 26.20 kg ha−1 mm−1 in the 40–50 cm maize narrow-row planting pattern was, respectively, 39.6% and 23% higher compared with that of sole crops. The water equivalent ratio (WER) values ranged from 1.60–1.79, suggesting better crop water use in the intercrops over sole cropping. Planting patterns provided by 40–50 cm maize narrow-row spacing were considered the most efficient in terms of maximum total yields, GWUE and WER. These results suggest that an appropriate reduction in the spacing of narrow maize row with wide soybean row could be an efficient crop management method to achieve optimal WUE and homogeneous water distribution in maize–soybean intercropping systems.


Corresponding author

§Corresponding authors. E-mail: and


Hide All
All authors contributed equally to this work.
Abbreviations: MM, maize-to-maize row; MS, maize-to-soybean row; SS, soybean-to-soybean row; WUE, water use efficiency; GWUE, group water use efficiency; WER, water equivalent ratio.



Hide All
Aggarwal, G. C. and Sidhu, A. S. (1988). Effect of irrigation and nitrogen on maize/cowpea fodder intercropping at Ludhiana, India: advantages and intercrop competition. Field Crops Research 18:177184.
Dabbagh, M. N. A., Amon, T. and Kaul, H. P. (2011). Competition and yield in intercrops of maize and sunflower for biogas. Industrial Crop Production 34:12031211.
Echarte, L., Maggiora, A. D., Cerrudo, D., Gonzalez, V. H., Abbate, P., Cerrudo, A., Sadras, V. O. and Calvino, P. (2011). Yield response to plant density of maize and sunflower intercropped with soybean. Field Crops Research 121:423429.
Fetene, M. (2003). Intra and inter-specific competition between seedlings of Acacia etbaica and a perennial grass (Hyparrenia hirta). Journal of Arid Environment 55:441451.
Gao, Y., Duan, A. W., Liu, Z. D., Wang, H. Z., Chen, J. P. and Liu, A. N. (2009). Crop root growth and water uptake in maize-soybean strip intercropping. Chinese Journal of Applied Ecology 20 (2):307313.
Grema, A. K. and Hess, T. M. (1994). Water balance and water use of millet-cowpea intercrops in north east Nigeria. Agricultural Water Management 26:169185.
Guo, Y. J., Tang, Y. and Cai, D. (2002). The water and fertilizer coupling effect and cooperation management model of multi-cropping (wheat/maize) of the irrigation district of Hexi Oasis. Journal Gansu Agricultural Science and Technology 4:3435.
He, C. S. (2003). Integration of geographic information systems and simulation model for watershed management. Environmental Modelling & Software 18 (8):809813.
He, Z. H., Xia, X. C., Peng, S. B. and Lumpkin, T. A. (2013). Meeting demands for increased cereal production in China. Journal of Cereal Sciences
Inter-governmental panel on climate change, (2001). Climate Change: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Jin, H., Xihuan, S. and Yangbin, L. (2003). Application of SCS model in Lanhe watershed. Journal of Taiyuan University of Technology 34 (6):735762.
Karlen, D. L. and Camp, C. R. (1985). Row spacing, plant population and water management effects on corn in the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Agronomy Journal 77:393398.
Li, L., Sun, J. H., Zhang, F. S., Li, X. L., Yang, S. C. and Rengel, Z. (2001). Wheat/maize or soybean strip intercropping. I. Yield advantage and interspecific interactions on nutrients. Field Crops Research 71:123137.
Li, L., Yang, S. C., Li, X. L., Zhang, F. S. and Christie, P. (1999). Interspecific complementary and competitive interactions between intercropped maize and faba bean. Plant Soil 212:205214.
Liu, X., Shaozhong, K. and Delin, L. (2005). SCS model based on geographic information and its application to simulate rainfall-runoff relationship at typical small watershed level in Loess Plateau. Transaction of the CSAE 21 (5):9397.
Mahouachi, J., Socorro, A. R. and Talon, M. (2006). Responses of papaya seedlings (Carica papaya L.) to water stress and re-hydration: Growth, photosynthesis and mineral nutrient imbalance. Plant Soil 281:137146.
Mao, L. L., Zhang, L. Z., Li, W. Q., Werf, W. V. D., Sun, J. H., Spiertz, H. and Li, L. (2012). Yield advantage and water saving in maize/pea intercrop. Field Crops Research 138:1120.
Mead, R. and Willey, R. W. (1980). The concept of ‘‘Land Equivalent Ratio’’ and advantages in yields from intercropping. Experimental Agriculture 16:217218.
Mengistu, T., Sterck, F. J., Fetene, M., Tadesse, W. and Bongers, F. (2011). Leaf gas exchange in the frankincense tree (Boswellia papyrifera) of African dry woodlands. Tree Physiology 31:740750.
Mishra, S. K., Jain, M. K. and Bhunya, P. K. (2005). Field applicability of the SCS-CN-based Mishra-Singh general model and its variants. Water Resources Management 19 (1):3762.
Morris, R. A. and Garrity, D. P. (1993). Resource capture and utilization in intercropping: water. Field Crops Research 34:303317.
Ogindo, H. O. and Walker, S. (2005). Comparison of measured changes in seasonal soil water content by rainfed maize-bean intercrop and component cropping in semi-arid region in South Africa. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 30:799808.
Ouda, S. A., Mesiry, T. El., Abdullah, E. F. and Gaballah, M. S. (2007). Effect of water stress on the yield of soybean and maize grown under different intercropping patterns. Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences 1 (4):578585.
Saren, B. K. and Jana, P. K. (1999). Effect of irrigation and intercropping system on yield, water use, concentration and uptake of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in maize and groundnut grown as sole and intercrop. Indian Journal of Agricultural Sciences 69:317320.
Shackel, K. A. and Hall, A. E. (1984). Effect of intercropping on the water relations of sorghum and cowpea. Field Crops Research 8:381387.
Shiklomanov, I. A. (2001). World water resources at the beginning of the 21st century. In International Hydrological Series of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 711 (Eds Shiklomanov, I. A. and Rodda, J. C.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Soil Conservation Services (SCS, 1972). National Engineering Handbook. Washington, DC: Soil Conservation Service. USDA.
Tang, L. S., Zhang, J. L., Li, Y. and Zhou, B. (2005). Plants in response to changes in soil moisture and controlled roots alternate irrigation Journal of Arid Zone Research 22 (1):9093.
USDA-Soil Conservation Service, (1985). National Engineering Handbook Section 4. Washington, DC: Hydrology USDA-SCS.
Wang, J. F. and Wu, B. Z. (2009). Advance in studies on soil moisture in intercropping system. Journal of Yunnan Agricultural University 24 (2):286291.
Wang, Z. K., Wu, P., Zhao, X. N., Gao, Y. and Chen, X. L. (2015). Water use and crop coefficient of the wheat-maize strip intercropping system for an arid region in northwestern China. Field Crops Research 161:7785.
Wolff, X. Y. and Coltman, R. R. (1989). Productivity under shade in Hawaii of five crops grown as vegetables in the tropics. Journal of American Society of Horticultural Sciences 115:175181.
Yan, Y. H., Gong, W. Z., Yang, W. Y., Wan, Y., Chen, X. L., Chen, Z. Q. and Wang, L.Y. (2010). Seed treatment with Uniconazole powder improves soybean seedling growth under shading by corn in relay strip intercropping system. Plant Production Sciences 13:367374.
Yang, F., Huang, S., Gao, R. C., Liu, W. G., Yong, T. W., Wang, X. C., Wu, X. L. and Yang, W. Y. (2014). Growth of soybean seedlings in relay strip intercropping systems in relation to light quantity and red far-red ratio. Field Crops Research 155:245253.
Yang, F., Wang, X. C., Liao, D. P., Lu, F. Z., Gao, R. C., Liu, W. G., Yong, T. W., Wu, X. L., Du, J., Liu, J. and Yang, W. Y. (2015). Yield responses to different planting geometries in maize-soybean relay strip intercropping systems. Agronomy Journal doi:10.2134/agronj14.0263.
Zhang, G. G., Yang, Z. B. and Dong, S. T. (2011). Interspecific competitiveness affects the total biomass yield in an alfalfa and corn intercropping system. Field Crops Research 24:6673.
Zhang, H. P., Oweis, T. Y., Garabet, S. and Pala, M. (1998). Water-use efficiency and transpiration efficiency of wheat under rainfed conditions and supplemental irrigation in a Mediterranean type environment. Plant and Soil 201:295305.
Zhang, J., Smith, D. L., Liu, W. G., Chen, X. F. and Yang, W. Y. (2011). Effects of shade and drought stress on soybean hormones and yield of main-stem and branch. African Journal of Biotechnology 10:1439214398.


  • TANZEELUR RAHMAN (a1), LIN YE (a1), XIN LIU (a1), NASIR IQBAL (a1), JUNBO DU (a1), RENCAI GAO (a1), WEIGUO LIU (a1), FENG YANG (a1) (a2) and WENYU YANG (a1) (a2)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed