Intercropping has been seen as an advantageous strategy in sustainable agriculture. Plants however interact with one another both above and below ground with members of the same species (intraspecific) or members of a different species (interspecific) for nutrients, water and light. It is therefore essential to understand these interactions when intercropped. The objective was to examine the above and below ground interactions between onion and lettuce in monocrop and intercrop systems. We examined the various possible interactions (no competition, above ground, below ground, or full) using a full factorial randomized design under greenhouse conditions. Onion yield was highest in intraspecific above ground competition and lowest in below ground and full interspecific competition with lettuce. Dry weight of onions in above ground competition with lettuce was significantly greater than that of the control group. Fresh weight of lettuce leaves were highest in below ground and full interspecific competition treatments. The hectare model and yield results suggest that there is strong below ground competitive effect between onion and lettuce in intercrop. Asymetric interspecific facilitation was found: facilitation by onion led to increased lettuce yield but a negative effect of lettuce on onion yield was observed. Knowledge of competitive interactions between component crops can have several applications in sustainable agricultural as it helps to match the most efficient species under specific conditions.
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