Maize and wheat are globally important food crops. The two species can be grown as an intercrop, with substantial land sparing in the order of 20%, as expressed by a land equivalent ratio of approximately 1.2. In a recent study published in AoB PLANTS, Gou et al. measured the nutrient uptake and photosynthesis rate of intercropped maize and found that nutrient uptake is constrained by competition with wheat, while photosynthesis rate is not decreased, but – surprisingly – increased. Eco-physiological mechanisms potentially underlying the unexpectedly high photosynthesis rate in intercropped maize are discussed.