Article

Intercropping Practices in Mediterranean Mandarin Orchards from an Environmental and Economic Perspective

Journal ar
Agriculture (Switzerland)
  • Volumen: 12
  • Número: 5
  • Fecha: 01 May 2022
  • ISSN: 20770472
  • Source Type: Journal
  • DOI: 10.3390/agriculture12050574
  • Document Type: Article
  • Publisher: MDPI
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.Crop diversification is becoming increasingly important for preserving soil and ecosys-tems¿ health and, subsequently, crop productivity and sustainability. Intercropping practices adopted in monocultural woody crops, with herbaceous crops covering the otherwise bare alley-ways, foster ecological interactions and can provide both environmental and economic advantages. In this study, intercropping practices were implemented in a traditional mandarin orchard in south-eastern Spain, which was monitored for three years to assess their impact on the environmental footprint and profitability. The footprint was quantified with a cradle¿to¿gate life cycle assessment (LCA), while the costs and revenues assessment was based on materials, labor, and machinery used in the trial. The calculated LCA indicators evidenced that, although the cultivated surface area increases with the integration of the intercrops (fava bean, purslane, cowpea, and barley/vetch mix), this does not imply any additional detrimental effects (resource depletion, acidification, eutrophi-cation, global warming). The economic analysis showed that while intercrops may involve additional production costs, the correct choice of intercrops, purslane, and fava bean, in this case, can reduce the market risks for farmers. Overall, this study shows that positive environmental and economic impacts are to be expected of co¿integrated herbaceous crops within the same field as mandarin trees.

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