Plant facilitation improves carbon production efficiency while reducing nitrogen input in semiarid agroecosystem

Wei Wang, Meng Ying Li, Shuang Guo Zhu, Aziz Khan, Xiu Ping Tao, Guang Fu Huang, Hai Ying Liu, Wei Zhang, Hong Yan Tao, Dong Shan Gong, Chao Song, You Cai Xiong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


It is critical to reduce carbon (C) emission and nitrogen (N) input in agroecosystems under a changing climate. If crop diversification is introduced, interspecific plant–plant interactions as an effective pathway may achieve this goal. However, the related process and its mechanism are poorly understood. A two-year field study was conducted to explore the effects of intercropping systems including soybean-maize, soybean- wheat and maize-wheat on the land equivalent ratio (LER), nitrogen use efficiency (NUE), seasonal carbon emission, and soil properties in a typical semiarid environment. Three N rates (N1: 150 kg ha−1, N2: 225 kg ha−1, N3: 300 kg ha−1) were applied. The result indicated that the intercropping with soybean significantly increased system productivity with LER > 1, showing a typical plant–plant facilitation. However, the LER of maize–wheat intercropping was significantly lower than 1, representing interspecific competition. With the increasing N rate, the productivity of monoculture wheat or maize was evidently promoted. Particularly, the productivity under N2 and N3 remained at a similar level due to interspecific facilitation. This trend was mechanically driven by the improved N uptake (NLER > 1) and NUE under the presence of interspecific facilitation. Critically, interspecific facilitation was observed to promote carbon emissions (CE) by 4.0%-6.3%, since root input, microbial activities and the C&N decomposition enzyme activities were significantly enhanced. To say, interspecific facilitation evidently enhanced carbon emission efficiency (Yield/CE) whereas interspecific competition turned to lower it. To sum up, plant facilitation improved crop productivity and carbon emission efficiency by reducing N input. Our findings provided a new insight into the exploration of green solution in terms of reducing emissions and increasing efficiency, as well as lowering N fertilizer application in the natural and agricultural ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107247
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2023


  • Carbon emission
  • Facilitation
  • Intercropping
  • Nitrogen
  • Plant interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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