Biome Makers Blog

Studying intercropping in horticulture


A new project in fields4ever

A new partner has been involved in Fields4Ever Initiative, the Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena with the project "Intercropping in horticulture to increase soil productivity and ecosystem services" will take action to recover our soil health.


Samples required and project

The project has been granted 90 samples. They will be used in broccoli and fava bean crops

The aim of this project is to evaluate whether intercropping improves soil productivity, particularly in broccoli and fava beans crops. The project will take place in the Agri-food Experimental Station Tomás Ferro in Spain.

This project will assess different intercropping patterns between a reference horticultural crop (broccoli: Brassica oleracea italica) and a legume (fava bean: Vicia faba) with the aim of deciphering if intercropping provides higher overall productivity by the stimulation of beneficial microorganisms that may enhance nutrient bioavailability and carbon sequestration.


Our hypothesis is that associating horticultural crops with legumes together with the addition of green manure, tillage reduction, and a decreased fertilizer use (by 30%), may enhance general productivity, soil quality, and fertility by the stimulation of beneficial microorganisms. The main goal is the evaluation of different intercropping patterns between broccoli and fava bean, assessing crop quality and yield, pest incidence, and ecosystem services such as soil quality, biodiversity, fertility, and carbon sequestration.


This project will take place during three crop cycles in order to allow potential changes to be detectable. Intercropping will be evaluated with five different treatments: fava bean monoculture, broccoli monoculture, row intercropping 1:1 and 2:1, and mix intercropping. At the end of each cycle, overall yield and crop quality will be recorded and soil samples will be taken to assess nutrient content, soil structure, carbon sequestration, and soil microbial communities. Throughout the experiment, greenhouse gas emissions will be measured and pest incidence and insect biodiversity will be recorded.

Universidad Politécnica de cartagena

Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena, is a university in Cartagena (Spain)  focused on schools of technological and business nature.

Head of the project

Eva Lloret Sevilla

Eva is a postdoctoral researcher working in the Department of Agricultural Engineering at Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena. She performed her thesis at CEBAS-CSIC studying different types of stabilization of organic matter and its effects on soil microbial communities and plant health and development. She received her Ph.D. in Soil Sciences from Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena with Outstanding Cum Laude and International Mention. She has conducted research stays at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the University of Innsbruck. Her current research focuses on agricultural systems that adopt agroecological practices with the aim to promote soil and plant health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Virginia Sanchez Navarro

Virginia Sánchez Navarro is a postdoctoral researcher at the Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena, within the research group Gestión, Aprovechamiento y Recuperación de Suelos y Aguas (GARSA). Doctorate in Science from the University of Cartagena, Cum laude and international mention, being the sustainable cultivation of grain legumes: soil fertility, plant nutrition, greenhouse gas emissions, and carbon sequestration as the main line of research. He has participated in 4 research projects, two of which are European. She has published 5 scientific articles in journals and She has worked through a doctoral stay at the Institute of Forest Ecology of the BOKU University in Vienna, focused on the study of the effect of pea inoculation with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.

Raúl Zornoza

Researcher in the Faculty of Agronomy of the Technical University of Cartagena. Specialist in Soil Science. Main research topic: soil quality, sustainable soil management, crop diversification. Main goal: understanding of biogeochemical processes to restore soil functioning in agroecosystems and degraded soils.

Author of 85 publications in SCOPUS, with >1800 cites up to date. H index = 29. 

ORCID profile:

Project Coordinator of H2020 project Diverfarming ( with 25 partners from 8 different countries and a budget of 10 million €

Secretary-General of the Spanish Society of Soil Science