BioEnergy Research

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 719–732 | Cite as

Intercropping Caragana arborescens with Salix miyabeana to Satisfy Nitrogen Demand and Maximize Growth

  • Judicaël Moukoumi
  • Richard E. Farrell
  • Ken J. C. Van Rees
  • Russell K. Hynes
  • Nicolas Bélanger


Willow shows great promise as a biomass crop and is now used worldwide. However, willow is a nutrient and water demanding plant that often requires the use of nitrogen (N) fertilizer to maximize growth on poor soils. The intercropping of Salix miyabeana with the atmospheric N2-fixing Caragana arborescens on poor soils of the Canadian Prairies could provide a portion of the N demand of the willow. The main objectives were to: (1) determine the yield potential, N nutrition and water use efficiency (WUE) of willow and Caragana grown in pure and mixed plantations across a range of soil productivity and (2) assess the extent of atmospheric N2-fixation by the Caragana within the first rotation in central Saskatchewan. We found large differences in willow yields, foliar N and WUE across the sites. The willow yields (1.24 to 15.6 t dry matter ha−1 over 4 years) were low compared to northeastern North American values and reflect the short and dry summers of the region. The yields were positively correlated to foliar N (ranging between 14.3 and 32.4 mg g−1), whereas higher WUE (expressed as δ13C) were not positively correlated to water availability but to higher yields. Caragana N2-fixation (measured using 15N isotope dilution) was not active at the most productive site but up to 60% of the foliar N was of atmospheric origin at the two other sites. Willow growth increased with Caragana proportions at the least productive site, which is typical of the benefits of N2-fixing plants on the growth of other plants on poor soils. At the most productive site, Caragana decreased the growth of willow early on due to competition for resources, but willow eventually shaded Caragana to a point of significant canopy decline and dieback. It is therefore more appropriate to intercrop the two species on less productive soils as Caragana is more likely to add N to the system via N2-fixation and is less likely to be shaded out by willow.


Willow Caragana Intercropping Growth Foliar N Atmospheric N2-fixation Water use efficiency 



This study was funded through a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Strategic Project Grant and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture Strategic Research Program. We are grateful to M. Emigh, N. Robertson, M. Cook, J. Ens, R. Hangs, B. Pinno, B. Amichev, S. Konecsni, C. Stadnyk, D. Jackson, and L. Pennock for their help with planting the sites and other field work. We also thank M. Stocki in the Stable Isotope Laboratory in the Department of Soil Science at the University of Saskatchewan for foliage C and N isotopes analysis as well as B. Goetz and R. De Freitas for their assistance with other soil and foliage analyses. Finally, we thank the four anonymous reviewers which provided thoughtful suggestions to help improve the paper and B. Lafleur for commenting on the revised manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Judicaël Moukoumi
    • 1
  • Richard E. Farrell
    • 1
  • Ken J. C. Van Rees
    • 1
  • Russell K. Hynes
    • 2
  • Nicolas Bélanger
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Soil ScienceUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada
  2. 2.Agriculture and Agri-Food CanadaSaskatoon Research CentreSaskatoonCanada
  3. 3.Centre d’étude de la forêt, UER Science et technologie, TéluqUniversité du QuébecMontréalCanada

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