Methods: Three-dimensional plant reconstruction, based on stereo cameras, combined with ray tracing was implemented to explore the light environment within the Bambara groundnut-proso millet intercropping system and associated monocrops. Gas exchange data were used to predict the total carbon gain of each component crop.
Key Results: The shading influence of the tall proso millet on the shorter Bambara groundnut results in a reduction in total canopy light interception and carbon gain. However, the increased leaf area index (LAI) of proso millet, higher photosynthetic potential due to the C4 pathway and sub-optimal photosynthetic acclimation of Bambara groundnut to shade means that increasing the number of rows of millet will lead to greater light interception and carbon gain per unit ground area, despite Bambara groundnut intercepting more light per unit leaf area.
Conclusions: Three-dimensional reconstruction combined with ray tracing provides a novel, accurate method of exploring the light environment within an intercrop that does not require difficult measurements of light interception and data-intensive manual reconstruction, especially for such systems with inherently high spatial possibilities. It provides new opportunities for calculating potential productivity within multi-species cropping systems, enables the quantification of dynamic physiological differences between crops grown as monoculture and those within intercrops, and enables the prediction of new productive combinations of previously untested crops.