Intercropping can improve field microclimates, decrease the incidence of crop diseases, and increase crop yields, but the reasons for this remain unknown. Solar radiation is the most important environmental influence. To understand the mechanisms of intercropping we established an experiment consisting of three cropping patterns: a monocropping control (treatment A) and two intercropping treatments (B: two rows of maize and two rows of soybean intercropping; C: two rows of maize and four rows of soybean intercropping). Results show that compared to monocropping, intercropping increased the amount of light penetrating to inferior leaves in maize plants. Light intensity reaching maize plants at the heading stage in intercropping increased over two-fold at 30 cm above ground and 10-fold at 70 cm above ground, compared with monocropping. At the flowering to maturity stage, light intensity at 110. 160 and 210 cm above ground among maize plants was greatly increased in intercropping compared with monocropping, by some five-fold, two-fold and 12%, respectively. Moreover, light intensity declined more slowly at the measured heights in the intercropping system compared with monocropping. From the 7–18th leaf, light intensity per leaf increased two-fold in intercropping compared with monocropping. Daily light duration increased more than a mean of 5 h per day per leaf in intercropping compared with monocropping. The biological characters of maize including thousand kernel weight, yield per plant and area of ear leaves were all greater in intercropping than monocropping. These results suggest that, for maize, intercropping improves light density and duration significantly and this may contribute to biomass and yield increases.
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Vol. 3 • No. 2