Novel genotypes for mixed cropping allow for IMProved sustainable land use ACross arable land, grassland and woodland

Plant breeding innovations and their utilization in cropping systems is seen as a major pathway to a sustainable intensification of plant production. Increasing crop diversity in mixed cropping systems has the potential to enhance production while maintaining or reducing resource consumption. IMPAC³ combines these two approaches, breeding and diversity. Novel genotypes, provided by recent breeding activities, are be examined for their potential to increase biomass production in mixed cropping systems across three domains of farming practice: arable land, grassland, and woodland.

The overall hypothesis is that novel genotypes that possess traits advantageous for multi-species systems are more productive and use resources more efficiently than genotypes not possessing such traits. A central experiment hosting the three domains using the same experimental design was established at two sites of differing soil fertility and environmental conditions. Leguminous/non-leguminous species will be combined in each domain with one focal species per domain receiving particular attention with regard to plant traits that control mixture performance and the genetic background of the traits. The research is arranged in five workpackages (WPs): (I) Establishing experiments that express mixture effects, (II) Understanding traits and processes, (III) Analysing ecological impact, (IV) Realising socio-economic benefits, and (V) Coordinating workflow, quality control and dissemination.

Well established as well as cutting edge research methodology will be employed in all WPs including advanced molecular genetics techniques, isotopic signature techniques, thermal infrared sensing, species specific root mass quantification via FTIR-ATR spectroscopy, characterization of bacterial communities, advanced crop-soil process modelling using the APSIM framework, and simulation techniques for economic risk assessments. Results of the project will substantially advance our understanding of plant features and their genetic background that facilitate mixture benefits. The results will thus form the basis for more targeted, trait orientated plant breeding, they will enhance our knowledge of integrating novel genotypes into multi-species annual and perennial systems and will provide socio-economic tools and knowledge for an efficient technology transfer into the farming practice.