Global systematic review with meta-analysis reveals yield advantage of legume-based rotations and its drivers

Jie Zhao, Ji Chen, Damien Beillouin, Hans Lambers, Yadong Yang, Pete Smith, Zhaohai Zeng, Jørgen E. Olesen, Huadong Zang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Diversified cropping systems, especially those including legumes, have been proposed to enhance food production with reduced inputs and environmental impacts. However, the impact of legume pre-crops on main crop yield and its drivers has never been systematically investigated in a global context. Here, we synthesize 11,768 yield observations from 462 field experiments comparing legume-based and non-legume cropping systems and show that legumes enhanced main crop yield by 20%. These yield advantages decline with increasing N fertilizer rates and crop diversity of the main cropping system. The yield benefits are consistent among main crops (e.g., rice, wheat, maize) and evident across pedo-climatic regions. Moreover, greater yield advantages (32% vs. 7%) are observed in low- vs. high-yielding environments, suggesting legumes increase crop production with low inputs (e.g., in Africa or organic agriculture). In conclusion, our study suggests that legume-based rotations offer a critical pathway for enhancing global crop production, especially when integrated into low-input and low-diversity agricultural systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4926
Pages (from-to)4926
Number of pages1
JournalNature Communications
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

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