Intercropping(under construction)

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Intercropping is an all-encompassing term for the practice of growing two or more crops in close proximity: in the same row or bed, or in rows or strips that are close enough for biological interaction. Mixed cropping, companion planting, relay cropping, interseeding, overseeding, underseeding, smother cropping, planting polycultures, and using living mulch are all forms of intercropping. (SARE)

Intercropping includes the growing of two or more cash crops together. It also includes the growing of a cash crop with a cover crop or other non-cash crop that provides benefits to the primary crop or to the overall farm system. Cover crops can also be intercropped with one another. The purpose of this chapter is to outline some of the basic principles for using intercropping successfully and to relate these to the principles of crop rotation detailed in the rest of this manual. (SARE)

When designing an intercropping scheme, there are four components to consider: spatial arrangement, plant density, maturity date and plant architecture. Intercropping may be used in several spatial arrangements:

Row intercropping refers to two or more crops grown together at the same time with at least one crop planted in rows.

→ Strip intercropping refers to growing two or more crops together in strips wide enough to permit separate crop production using machines but close enough for the crops to interact.

Mixed intercropping has no distinct row or strip arrangements.

Relay intercropping is used for planting in succession, where a second crop is planted into a standing crop at the reproductive stage before harvesting.

Seeding rates are often reduced to avoid overcrowding. Rates should also reflect the desired yield for each crop. Staggering planting / harvesting dates takes advantage of peak resource demands, reducing competition between crops. Including plants with a variety of heights and growth patterns also ensures reduced competition. For example, a tall corn plant can capture sunlight and create a bene cial understory environment for a low-growing, shade- tolerant species.

The use of intercropping can provide benefits to a management system, including:

  • decreased insect pest pressure

  • reduced need for external inputs

  • increases in biodiversity

  • enhanced production

  • lower economic risk

Separating susceptible plants with non-host species provides a physical barrier to insect pest movement, limiting spread and decreasing likelihood of damage to susceptible varieties. For example, separating plantings of solanaceous crops, such as tomatoes and potatoes, that are susceptible to

Colorado potato beetle, with a non-host crop, such as corn, can reduce the movement of Colorado potato beetles from one solanaceous crop to another. The addition of multiple species enhances biodiversity and encourages beneficial insect populations, offering natural biocontrol. Resulting beneficial interactions between plants can confuse insects, lowering insect pest levels, lessening the extent of damage and reducing the need for external inputs. Inclusion of multiple crops utilizing different environmental niches increases the productivity per unit of land, allowing for financial diversification, as well as a reduced financial risk in the event of crop failure.

 
 
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