Conservation Evidence strives to be as useful to conservationists as possible. Please take our survey to help the team improve our resource.

Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Use alley cropping Soil Fertility

Key messages

Read our guidance on Key messages before continuing

A controlled, randomized, replicated study from Canada found that intercropping with trees resulted in a higher diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.



Supporting evidence from individual studies


A randomized, controlled, replicated study in 2008 on sandy-loam soil in Ontario, Canada (Bainard et al. 2012) found a greater diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) under tree-based intercropping (6 phylotypes) compared with conventional cropping (4.7 phylotypes). Colonization of corn Zea mays roots was greater than 50% in both intercropped and conventional treatments, and AMF richness was similar in both treatments. Different tree species supported distinctive AMF communities. Trees were intercropped annually with corn, soybean Glycine max, winter wheat Triticum aestivum or barley Hordeum vulgare using no-till cultivation. The tree rows accounted for 16% of the crop area and were spaced 12.5-15 m apart. Tree species included silver maple Acer saccharinum , white ash Fraxinum americana , hazelnut Corylus avellana , black walnut Juglans nigra , Norway spruce Picea abies, hybrid poplar Populus deltoides, red oak Quercus rubra, black locust Robinia pseudoacacia, willow Salix discolor and white cedar Thuja occidentalis.


Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Key, G., Whitfield, M., Dicks, L.V., Sutherland, W.J. & Bardgett, R.D. (2019) Enhancing Soil Fertility. Pages 627-648 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.