In 1987, the University of Guelph established a large tree-based intercropping system on 30 ha of prime agricultural land in southern Ontario, Canada. The purpose was to investigate various aspects of intercropping trees with prime agricultural crops. In this study, objectives were to investigate tree competitive effects (i.e., shading and competition for soil moisture) on under-story crop net assimilation (NA), growth, and yield. The effects of tree competition on corn (C4 plant) and soybean (C3 plant) photosynthesis and productivity in the intercropped system were studied during the 1997 and 1998 growing seasons. Corn and soybeans were intercropped with hybrid poplar (clone-DN-177) and silver maple (Acer sacharrinum) at a within-row spacing of 6 m and between-row spacing of 12.5 or 15 m. Trees were absent from control rows. Tree rows were oriented approximately north and south. Twelve crop locations were sampled around each tree. These were at 2 and 6 m east and west of the tree, located along a primary axis running through the tree trunk and perpendicular to the tree row, and at 2 m north and south of each location along the primary axis. Net assimilation and plant water deficit measurements were made three times daily (morning, noon, afternoon) on sampling days in July. Generally, tree competition significantly reduced photosynthetic radiation (PAR), net assimilation (NA), and growth and yield of individual soybean or corn plants growing nearer (2 m) to tree rows in both years and soil moisture in 1998. NA was highly correlated with growth and yield of both crops. These correlations were higher for corn than soybeans in both years, with corn, rather than soybeans being more adversely impacted by tree shading. In 1997, poplar, rather than maple, had the greatest competitive effect on NA. In 1997, the lowest plant water deficits, for soybeans and for corn, were observed for the maple treatment. Nonetheless, in both years, daily plant water deficits were non-significantly and poorly correlated with NA and growth and yield of both crops. However, soil moisture (5 and 15 cm depth) was significantly correlated with soybeans yield in 1998. Possible remediation strategies are discussed to reduce tree competitive interactions on agricultural crops. © 2006.
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