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Intercropping

Intercropping

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Intercropping is the practice of growing two or more crop
Crop
Crop may refer to:* Crop, a plant grown and harvested for agricultural use* Crop , part of the alimentary tract of some animals* Crop , a modified whip used in horseback riding or disciplining humans...

s in proximity. The most common goal of intercropping is to produce a greater yield on a given piece of land by making use of resources that would otherwise not be utilized by a single crop. Careful planning is required, taking into account the soil
Soil
Soil is a natural body consisting of layers of mineral constituents of variable thicknesses, which differ from the parent materials in their morphological, physical, chemical, and mineralogical characteristics...

, climate
Climate
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

, crops, and varieties. It is particularly important not to have crops competing with each other for physical space, nutrient
Nutrient
A nutrient is a chemical that an organism needs to live and grow or a substance used in an organism's metabolism which must be taken in from its environment. They are used to build and repair tissues, regulate body processes and are converted to and used as energy...

s, water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

, or sunlight
Sunlight
Sunlight, in the broad sense, is the total frequency spectrum of electromagnetic radiation given off by the Sun. On Earth, sunlight is filtered through the Earth's atmosphere, and solar radiation is obvious as daylight when the Sun is above the horizon.When the direct solar radiation is not blocked...

. Examples of intercropping strategies are planting a deep-root
Root
In vascular plants, the root is the organ of a plant that typically lies below the surface of the soil. This is not always the case, however, since a root can also be aerial or aerating . Furthermore, a stem normally occurring below ground is not exceptional either...

ed crop with a shallow-rooted crop, or planting a tall crop with a shorter crop that requires partial shade. Inga alley cropping
Inga alley cropping
Inga alley cropping refers to the plantation of agricultural crops in between the rows of Inga trees. It has been promoted by Mike Hands, 44th in the UK Environment Agency's all-time list of scientists, campaigners, writers, economists and naturalists who, in its view, have done the most to save...

 has been proposed as an alternative to the ecological destruction of Slash-and-burn farming.

When crops are carefully selected, other agronomic benefits are also achieved. Lodging-prone plants, those that are prone to tip over in wind or heavy rain, may be given structural support by their companion crop (Trenbath 1976). Delicate or light sensitive plants may be given shade or protection, or otherwise wasted space can be utilized. An example is the tropical multi-tier system where coconut
Coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

 occupies the upper tier, banana
Banana
Banana is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa and for the fruit they produce. Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red....

 the middle tier, and pineapple
Pineapple
Pineapple is the common name for a tropical plant and its edible fruit, which is actually a multiple fruit consisting of coalesced berries. It was given the name pineapple due to its resemblance to a pine cone. The pineapple is by far the most economically important plant in the Bromeliaceae...

, ginger
Ginger
Ginger is the rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale, consumed as a delicacy, medicine, or spice. It lends its name to its genus and family . Other notable members of this plant family are turmeric, cardamom, and galangal....

, or leguminous fodder
Fodder
Fodder or animal feed is any agricultural foodstuff used specifically to feed domesticated livestock such as cattle, goats, sheep, horses, chickens and pigs. Most animal feed is from plants but some is of animal origin...

, medicinal
Herbalism
Herbalism is a traditional medicinal or folk medicine practice based on the use of plants and plant extracts. Herbalism is also known as botanical medicine, medical herbalism, herbal medicine, herbology, herblore, and phytotherapy...

 or aromatic plants occupy the lowest tier.

Intercropping of compatible plants also encourages biodiversity
Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions...

, by providing a habitat for a variety of insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s and soil organisms
Soil biology
Soil biology is the study of microbial and faunal activity and ecology in soil. These organisms include earthworms, nematodes, protozoa, fungi, bacteria and different arthropods...

 that would not be present in a single-crop environment. This biodiversity can in turn help to limit outbreaks of crop pests (Altieri 1994) by increasing the diversity or abundance of natural enemies, such as spider
Spider
Spiders are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs, and chelicerae with fangs that inject venom. They are the largest order of arachnids and rank seventh in total species diversity among all other groups of organisms...

s or parasitic wasp
Wasp
The term wasp is typically defined as any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their...

s. Increasing the complexity of the crop environment through intercropping also limits the places where pests can find optimal foraging or reproductive conditions.

The degree of spatial and temporal overlap in the two crops can vary somewhat, but both requirements must be met for a cropping system to be an intercrop. Numerous types of intercropping, all of which vary the temporal and spatial mixture to some degree, have been identified (Andrews & Kassam 1976). These are some of the more significant types:
  • Mixed intercropping, as the name implies, is the most basic form in which the component crops are totally mixed in the available space.
  • Row cropping involves the component crops arranged in alternate rows. Variations include alley cropping, where crops are grown in between rows of trees, and strip cropping, where multiple rows, or a strip, of one crop are alternated with multiple rows of another crop.
  • Intercropping also uses the practice of sowing a fast growing crop with a slow growing crop, so that the fast growing crop is harvested before the slow growing crop starts to mature. This obviously involves some temporal separation of the two crops.
  • Further temporal separation is found in relay cropping, where the second crop is sown during the growth, often near the onset of reproductive development or fruit
    Fruit
    In broad terms, a fruit is a structure of a plant that contains its seeds.The term has different meanings dependent on context. In non-technical usage, such as food preparation, fruit normally means the fleshy seed-associated structures of certain plants that are sweet and edible in the raw state,...

    ing, of the first crop, so that the first crop is harvested to make room for the full development of the second.

See also

  • Allotment garden
  • Asset-Based Community Development
    Asset-based community development
    Asset-based community development is a methodology that seeks to uncover and utilize the strengths within communities as a means for sustainable development....

     (ABCD)
  • Community Food Security Coalition
    Community Food Security Coalition
    The Community Food Security Coalition is a North American non-profit made up of 325 member organizations who focus on social and economic justice, the environment, nutrition, sustainable agriculture, community development, labor, anti-poverty, and anti-hunger initiatives...

  • Community gardening
    Community gardening
    A community garden is a single piece of land gardened collectively by a group of people.-Purpose:Community gardens provide fresh produce and plants as well as satisfying labor, neighborhood improvement, sense of community and connection to the environment...

  • Container garden
    Container garden
    Container gardening is the practice of growing plants exclusively in containers instead of planting them in the ground. Pots, traditionally made of terracotta but now more commonly plastic, and windowboxes have been the most commonly seen. Small pots are commonly called flowerpots. In some cases,...

  • Companion planting
    Companion planting
    Companion planting is the planting of different crops in proximity , on the theory that they assist each other in nutrient uptake, pest control, pollination, and other factors necessary to increasing crop productivity...

  • Ecological sanitation
    Ecological sanitation
    Ecological sanitation, also known as ecosan or eco-san, are terms coined to describe a form of sanitation that usually involves urine diversion and the recycling of water and nutrients contained within human wastes back into the local environment....

  • Forest gardening
    Forest gardening
    Forest gardening is a food production and agroforestry system based on woodland ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans...

  • Home garden
  • Living wall
    Living wall
    A green wall is a wall, either free-standing or part of a building, that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and, in some cases, soil or an inorganic growing medium. The concept of the green wall dates back to 600 BC with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon...

  • Permaculture
    Permaculture
    Permaculture is an approach to designing human settlements and agricultural systems that is modeled on the relationships found in nature. It is based on the ecology of how things interrelate rather than on the strictly biological concerns that form the foundation of modern agriculture...

  • Rooftop garden
  • Shade-grown coffee
  • Sheet mulching
    Sheet mulching
    In permaculture, sheet mulching is an agricultural no-dig gardening technique that attempts to mimic natural forests' processes. When deployed properly and in combination with other permacultural principles, it can generate healthy, productive and low maintenance ecosystems.-Technique:A model for...

  • Sustainable agriculture
    Sustainable agriculture
    Sustainable agriculture is the practice of farming using principles of ecology, the study of relationships between organisms and their environment...

  • Vertical farming
    Vertical farming
    Vertical farming is a concept that argues that it is economically and environmentally viable to cultivate plant or animal life within skyscrapers, or on vertically inclined surfaces...

  • Push–pull technology

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