Review Article

Agronomy for Sustainable Development

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 327-348

Functional agrobiodiversity and agroecosystem services in sustainable wheat production. A review

  • Ambrogio CostanzoAffiliated withInstitute of Life Sciences, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna
  • , Paolo BàrberiAffiliated withInstitute of Life Sciences, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Email author 

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Agrobiodiversity can improve the sustainability of cropping systems in a context of low external inputs and unpredictable climate change. Agrobiodiversity strategies to grow wheat are breeding ad hoc cultivars for organic and low-input systems, wheat–legume intercrops and living mulches, cultivar mixtures, and the use of genetically heterogeneous populations. However, applying those strategies can fail due the lack of a well-focused framework. Therefore, we need a better integration between breeding and management and a clear focus on crop traits related to key agroecosystem services. Here, we review the use of agrobiodiversity in wheat production, focusing on breeding and management. We discuss five agroecosystem services: (1) weed reduction, (2) nitrogen use efficiency, (3) abiotic stress tolerance, (4) disease and pest reduction and (5) yield and yield stability. We categorise agrobiodiversity into functional identity, functional composition, and functional diversity, in order to link crop traits to agroecosystem services. Linking crop traits to agroecosystem services could in turn lead to concrete options for farmers and policy. We discuss the relations between crop identity and crop heterogeneity. We also discuss the partitioning of crop heterogeneity between functional composition and functional diversity.


Agroecosystem service Breeding Composite cross population Cultivar mixture Evolutionary breeding Intercropping Living mulch Low input Organic farming Trait