Polyculture Management: A Crucial System for Sustainable Agriculture Development

  • Katarzyna Adamczewska-Sowińska
  • Józef SowińskiEmail author


Polyculture is a system for the cultivation of a few crops together, in the same space and at the same time. These methods of crop production have been known and used for thousands of years. Since the 1970s, the system of intensive agriculture has dominated, and the use of environmentally friendly methods for food and feed production has been limited, as has the use of the polyculture system (PS). This paper presents different methods of PS, and special attention is paid to the importance of methods for sustainable agriculture, with a focus on soil protection and the effect of polyculture on soil fertilities. A special issue presented here are living mulches and companion crops (CC) methods in agriculture and horticulture production. Soil surface cover is an important practice for the slowdown of degradation processes to increase soil fertilities. Polyculture and plant cover (companion crop or living mulches) have many environmental benefits: protection of soil against water and wind erosion, stabilization of soil temperature, reservoir of water in the soil profile, effect on soil fertilities, biological activity, and physical soil characteristics. Living mulches or CC are an element of biological control and compete with weeds and reduce pest attacks and disease infection.

Plant-plant interaction provides important information helpful for species selection for different polyculture systems. Various crop interactions are presented, and crop selections both recommended and not recommended for PS are characterized. Special attention is paid to the role of allelochemicals for species selection.

The polyculture system based on commonly known methods of legume and non-legume crop cultivation. The importance of nitrogen fixation phenomena and ways of nitrogen transport from legume crops to non-legume crops is presented.

Better understanding of the polyculture system benefits and popularization of those crop production methods was the main aim of that chapter. More popular should be agriculture system which has more ecological and environmental impact on both crop-crop and crop-environment.


Polyculture system Aboveground and belowground competition Environment protection Nitrogen fixation 



Cloddiness index


Companion crops


Water stability index


Living mulch


Mixed cropping


Mean weighed diameter of aggregate (dry method)


Mean weighed diameter of aggregate (wet method)




Nitrate nitrogen


Polyculture system


Misting index


Structure index




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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katarzyna Adamczewska-Sowińska
    • 1
  • Józef Sowiński
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Horticulture DepartmentWroclaw University of Environmental and Life SciencesWroclawPoland
  2. 2.Institute of Agroecology and Plant ProductionWroclaw University of Environmental and Life SciencesWroclawPoland

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