Intercropping Mixed Cropping

Intercropping and mixed cropping are age-old practices being followed by farmers. In mixed cropping, seeds of two or more crops are sown by the broadcast method; in intercropping, seeds of two or more crops are sown in rows in a specific pattern. Intercropping is more common than mixed cropping due to the ease of controlling weeds, spraying chemicals and harvesting. In earlier times, intercropping was followed to ensure the success of at least one crop in the event of failure of the other(s) due to reasons mostly related to climate or climate-induced. In the present-day agriculture, however, intercropping is followed to achieve greater productivity and net returns per unit area per unit of time.

Soybean is grown in the intercropping system with a number of crops including maize (Zea mays), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), black gram (Vigna mungo), sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum), pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan), pearl millet (Pennisetum typhoides), groundnut (Arachis hypogaea) and cotton (Gossypium species). The sowing pattern (row ratio) is selected in such a way that the productivity of the main crop is either not adversely affected or is affected to the least extent when compared with sole cropping.

In intercropping systems, time and space are best utilized, resulting in higher total crop productivity as well as net income to farmers. Furthermore, intercropping may help in checking disease and insect pests and in smothering weeds. To avoid or lessen competition among crops, care should be taken to select only those crops or crop varieties that are compatible. Plant height, leaf area and crop duration are some of the important aspects that need to be considered when planning intercropping. Crop management practices such as irrigation, fertilizer application and chemical weed control should not be harmful to the companion crop.

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