Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 88, Issue 4, pp 693–706 | Cite as

Vertical root separation and light interception in a temperate tree-based intercropping system of Eastern Canada

  • Léa Bouttier
  • Alain Paquette
  • Christian Messier
  • David Rivest
  • Alain Olivier
  • Alain Cogliastro


We analysed the spatial distribution of fine roots and light availability in a tree-based intercrop system (TBI) composed of Quercus rubra L. (QUR), hybrid poplar (Populus deltoides × Populus nigra—HYP) and hay (CROP) in southern Québec (Canada) to evaluate interactions between trees and crop. Trees in the 8-year-old TBI system had superficial fine root profiles, which is common in tree species grown in conventional plantations and natural forests. More than 95 % of fine roots were found within the first 25 and 45 cm for QUR and HYP, respectively, and 35 cm for CROP. However, vertical separation between the fine root systems of QUR and CROP was evident, as QUR allocated less fine roots to the top 10 cm of soil, and more to depths between 10 and 30 cm, as opposed to CROP which had a greater proportion of fine roots in the top 10 cm. HYP fine roots showed no adaption when intercropped with hay. High tree fine root length density (FRLD) in the top soil layer was observed near the tree stems while hay FRLD was reduced by 45 %, suggesting strong competition for resources. Hay yield analysis revealed significant reduction near trees, particularly HYP. However, light did seem to be the main driver of intercrop yield, as it not only accounted for the effect of competition by roots (being correlated), but also had a singular effect.


Tree-based intercropping system Fine roots length density Spatial distribution Spatial separation Light reduction Competition Agroforestry 



This study contributes to a larger project aiming at determining the potential contribution of agroforestry to climate change adaptation of agroecosystems and was supported by Ouranos, a consortium on regional climatology and adaptation to climate change, and the Fonds vert—Action Plan 2006–2012 on climatic changes of the government of Québec. We would like to thank Joann K. Whalen (McGill University) for sharing her soil data. Thanks are particularly addressed to M. and M. Lessard of Auberge Le Baluchon at Saint-Paulin, and to field assistants.


  1. Achat DL, Bakker MR, Trichet P (2008) Rooting patterns and fine root biomass of Pinus pinaster assessed by trench wall and core methods. J For Res 13:165–175CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aigner M, Ziegler GM (2006) Le problème de l’aiguille de Buffon. Raisonnements divins. Springer, Paris, pp 153–156Google Scholar
  3. Alam M, Olivier A, Paquette A, Dupras J, Revéret J-P, Messier C (2014) A general framework for the quantification and valuation of ecosystem services of tree-based intercropping systems. Agroforestry Systems accepted AGFO-D-13-00239 4 Mar 2014Google Scholar
  4. Allen SC, Jose S, Nair PKR, Brecke BJ, Nkedi-Kizza P, Ramsey CL (2004) Safety-net role of tree roots: evidence from a pecan (Carya illinoensis K. Koch)–cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) alley cropping system in the southern United States. For Ecol Manag 192:395–407CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Anderson MJ, Legendre P (1999) An empirical comparison of permutation methods for tests of partial regression coefficients in a linear model. J Stat Comput Simul 62:271–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ashton MS, Montagnini F (2000) A philosophical approach to silvicuture in agroforestry. In: Ashton MS, Montagnini F (eds) The silvicultural basis for agroforestry systems. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 1–8Google Scholar
  7. Baldy C, Dupraz C, Schilizzi S (1993) Vers de nouvelles agroforesteries en climats tempérés et méditerranéens I. Aspects agronomiques. Cah Agric 2:375–386Google Scholar
  8. Bauhus J, Messier C (1999) Soil exploitation strategies of fine roots in different tree species of the southern boreal forest of Eastern Canada. Can J For Res 29:260–273Google Scholar
  9. Bengough AG, Mackenzie CJ, Diggle AJ (1992) Relations between root length densities and root intersections with horizontal and vertical planes using root growth modelling in 3-dimensions. Plant Soil 145:245–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bergeron M, Lacombe S, Bradley R, Whalen J, Cogliastro A, Jutras M-F, Arp P (2011) Reduced soil nutrient leaching following the establishment of tree-based intercropping systems in Eastern Canada. Agrofor Syst 83:321–330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Böhm W (1976) In situ estimation of root length at natural soil profiles. J Agric Sci 87:365–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burgess PJ, Incoll LD, Corry DT, Beaton A, Hart BJ (2005) Poplar (Populus spp) growth and crop yields in a silvoarable experiment at three lowland sites in England. Agrofor Syst 63:157–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Canadell J, Jackson RB, Ehleringer JB, Mooney HA, Sala OE, Schulze ED (1996) Maximum rooting depth of vegetation types at the global scale. Oecologia 108:583–595CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cannell MGR, Noordwijk M, Ong CK (1996) The central agroforestry hypothesis: the trees must acquire resources that the crop would not otherwise acquire. Agrofor Syst 34:27–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Casper BB, Jackson RB (1997) Plant competition underground. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 28:545–570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chirko CP, Gold MA, Nguyen PV, Jiang JP (1996) Influence of direction and distance from trees on wheat yield and photosynthetic photon flux density (Qp) in a Paulownia and wheat intercropping system. For Ecol Manag 83:171–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Chopart JL, Siband P (1999) Development and validation of a model to describe root length density of maize from root counts on soil profiles. Plant Soil 214:61–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Claveau Y, Messier C, Comeau PG, Coates KD (2002) Growth and crown morphological responses of boreal conifer seedlings and saplings with contrasting shade tolerance to a gradient of light and height. Can J For Res 32:458–468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Coker E (1959) Root development in grass and clean cultivation. J Hortic Sci 34:111–121Google Scholar
  20. Coll L, Potvin C, Messier C, Delagrange S (2008) Root architecture and allocation patterns of eight native tropical species with different successional status used in open-grown mixed plantations in Panama. Trees 22:585–596CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. CRAAQ (2010) Guide de référence en fertilisation, vol 2e. Centre de Référence en Agriculture et Agroalimentaire du Québec, QuebecGoogle Scholar
  22. Delhaize E, Ryan PR (1995) Aluminum toxicity and tolerance in plants. Plant Physiol 107:315PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Ding S, Su P (2010) Effects of tree shading on maize crop within a poplar-maize compound system in Hexi Corridor oasis, Northwestern China. Agrofor Syst 80:117–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Doblas-Miranda E, Paquette A, Work TT (2014) Intercropping trees effect on soil oribatid diversity in agro-ecosystems. Agrofor Syst 101007/s10457-014-9680-yGoogle Scholar
  25. Finér L, Messier C, De Grandpré L (1997) Fine-root dynamics in mixed boreal conifer-broad-leafed forest stands at different successional stages after fire. Can J For Res 27:304–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Frazer GW, Canham CD, Lertzman KP (1999) Gap light analyzer (GLA), Version 2.0: Imaging software to extract canopy structure and gap light transmission indices from true-colour fisheye photographs, users manual and program documentation. Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, and the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York 36Google Scholar
  27. Friday JB, Fownes JH (2002) Competition for light between hedgerows and maize in an alley cropping system in Hawaii, USA. Agrofor Syst 55:125–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Graves AR, Burgess PJ, Palma JHN, Herzog F, Moreno G, Bertomeu M, Dupraz C, Liagre F, Keesman K, van der Werf W, de Nooy AK, van den Briel JP (2007) Development and application of bio-economic modelling to compare silvoarable, arable, and forestry systems in three European countries. Ecol Eng 29:434–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gray GRA (2000) Root distribution of hybrid poplar in a temperate agroforestry intercropping system. Department of Environmental Biology, Université de Guelph, Guelph, p 116Google Scholar
  30. Jose S, Gillespie A, Seifert J, Biehle D (2000) Defining competition vectors in a temperate alley cropping system in the midwestern USA: 2. Competition for water. Agrofor Syst 48:41–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jose S, Gillespie AR, Pallardy SG (2004) Interspecific interactions in temperate agroforestry. Agrofor Syst 61:237–255Google Scholar
  32. Livesley SJ, Gregory PJ, Buresh RJ (2000) Competition in tree row agroforestry systems. 1. Distribution and dynamics of fine root length and biomass. Plant Soil 227:149–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Logsdon SD, Allmaras RR (1991) Maize and soybean root clustering as indicated by root mapping. Plant Soil 131:169–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mehlich A (1984) Mehlich 3 soil test extractant: a modification of Mehlich 2 extractant. Commun Soil Sci Plant Anal 15:1409–1416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Meteorological Service of Canada (2006) Canadian climate normals 1971–2000. Environment CanadaGoogle Scholar
  36. Moreno G, Obrador JJ, Cubera E, Dupraz C (2005) Fine root distribution in Dehesas of Central-Western Spain. Plant Soil 277:153–162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mulia R, Dupraz C (2006) Unusual fine root distributions of two deciduous tree species in Southern France: what consequences for modelling of tree root dynamics? Plant Soil 281:71–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Oksanen J, Blanchet FG, Kindt R, Legendre P, Minchin PR, O’Hara R, Simpson GL, Solymos P, Stevens MHH, Wagner H (2013) Vegan: community ecology package version 1.8-2Google Scholar
  39. Pageau E (1967) Étude pédologique des comtés de Trois-Rivières et de Saint-Maurice. Division des sols, Ministère de l’agriculture et de la colonisation du Québec, QuebecGoogle Scholar
  40. Peres-Neto PR, Legendre P, Dray S, Borcard D (2006) Variation partitioning of species data matrices: estimation and comparison of fractions. Ecology 87:2614–2625PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rivest D, Olivier A (2007) Cultures intercalaires avec arbres feuillus: quel potentiel pour le Québec? For Chron 83:526–538CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rivest D, Cogliastro A, Bradley RL, Olivier A (2010) Intercropping hybrid poplar with soybean increases soil microbial biomass, mineral N supply and tree growth. Agrofor Syst 80:33–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schmid I, Kazda M (2002) Root distribution of Norway spruce in monospecific and mixed stands on different soils. For Ecol Manag 159:37–47CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schroth G (1995) Tree root characteristics as criteria for species selection and systems design in agroforestry. Agrofor Syst 30:125–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Van Noordwijk M, Van Driel W, Brouwer G, Schuurmans W (1995) Heavy-metal uptake by crops from polluted river sediments covered by non-polluted topsoil. Plant Soil 175:105–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Van Noordwijk M, Brouwer G, Meijboom F, Do Rosario M, Oliveira G, Bengough AG (2000) Trench profile techniques and core break methods. In: Smit AL, Bengough AG, Engels C, Van Noordwijk M, Pellerin S, Van de Geijn SC (eds) Root methods: a handbook. Springer, Berlin, pp 211–233Google Scholar
  47. Vepraskas MJ, Hoyt GD (1988) Comparison of the trench-profile and core methods for evaluating root distributions in tillage studies. Agron J 80:166–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wanvestraut RH, Jose S, Nair PKR, Brecke BJ (2004) Competition for water in a pecan (Carya illinoensis K. Koch)–cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) alley cropping system in the southern United States. Agrofor Syst 60:167–179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zamora DS, Jose S, Nair PKR, Jones JW, Brecke BJ, Ramsey CL (2008) Interspecific competition in a pecan-cotton alley-cropping system in the southern United States. Is light the limiting factor? In: Jose S, Gordon AM (eds) Toward agroforestry design: an ecological approach. Springer, New York, pp 81–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Léa Bouttier
    • 1
  • Alain Paquette
    • 2
  • Christian Messier
    • 2
  • David Rivest
    • 3
  • Alain Olivier
    • 4
  • Alain Cogliastro
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut de Recherche en Biologie VégétaleMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Centre d’étude de la forêtUniversité du Québec à MontréalMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Institut des sciences de la forêt feuillue tempéréeRiponCanada
  4. 4.Université LavalQuebecCanada

Personalised recommendations