A large intercropping field trial

Large-scale field trials as a platform for the development of digital tools for intercropping

Why mixed crops?

Mixed cropping is seen as a possible route to more sustainable agriculture, as it has the potential to increase yields and product diversity, stabilise yields and reduce the use of pesticides and fertilisers. Despite these advantages, adoption of mixed cultivation in practical farming is still low. One problem is the selection of suitable plant species and varieties as well as an appropriate sowing density in order to achieve a balance between the individual crops. Field trials to optimise these parameters are either limited to a small number of options that can be tested or create a difficult-to-manage workload. Digital farming technologies, including the use of drones to obtain high-resolution images from the field trials and machine learning for image processing, can help to increase the number of partner combinations to be tested in field trials.

Spring wheat and faba bean mixture
Spring wheat and faba bean mixture © Madhuri Paul
Phenorob field trial at the Wiesengut campus
Phenorob field trial at the Wiesengut campus © Madhuri Paul

A large field trial on mixed crop cultivation

Field trials were conducted at a conventional low-input site and at an organic site. The treatments included all possible monocultures and 1:1 mixtures of ten spring wheat varieties (Triticum aestivum L.) (ten varieties and two groups of 5-component mixtures of these wheat varieties) and two field bean varieties (Vicia faba L.). All combinations were sown at two sowing densities. The planting resulted in a total number of 320 plots per site. Regular drone flights over both sites were combined with classical agronomic measurements to calibrate the information obtained from the image data.


Diversification through mixed cropping can improve crop performance in terms of overall yield and resource utilisation efficiency compared to pure cropping. The aim of the project is to develop new field arrangements for mixed cropping through the development and use of new technologies and to optimise the production of available arable land through diversification.

Plant height measurement
Plant height measurement © Madhuri Paul

Project titel: PhenoRob - Robotik und Phänotypisierung für Nachhaltige Nutzpflanzenproduktion


Project partner:
  • Prof. Dr. Frank Ewert, Prof. und Leiter der Arbeitsgruppe Kulturpflanzenkunde und wissenschaftlicher Direktor des Leibniz-Zentrums für Agrarlandschaftsforschung (ZALF).
  • Prof. Dr. Cyrill Stachniss, Prof. und Leiter der Gruppe Photogrammetrie und Robotik, Universität Bonn, IGG
  • Prof. Dr. Heiner Kuhlmann, Prof. and Leiter der Geodäsie Gruppe, Universität Bonn, IGG
Project website:


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Madhuri Paul


Auf dem Hügel 14

53121 Bonn

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Prof. Dr. Thomas Döring

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