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Intercropping

Topics Covered: Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints.

Intercropping

Why in News?

Kerala government is planning to modify specific laws that govern the plantation sector to allow the management to intercrop food crops with cash crops such as tea, coffee, cardamom and rubber.

Laws that need modification include the Kerala Land Reforms Act, Kerala Grants and Leases (Modification of Rights) Act and Kerala Land Utilisation Order.

Need for:

To break its dependency on food imports from neighbouring States.

To guard against possible food protectionism by large-scale producers by opening up plantations for farming edibles.

Implications:

Plantations encompassed 8 lakh hectares in Kerala. An amendment of the law would free up an estimated 2 lakh hectares for inter-cropping.

  • The proposed modification would also permit plantations to diversify into dairy and poultry farming.
  • It would spur investment in precision farming characterised by high yield food crops, reduced use of toxic pesticides, chemical fertilisers and water.

Proposed plan:

The Kerala Agriculture University had zoned Kerala into 23 agro-climatic sectors.

  • It had suggested that oranges, apples, avocados, grapefruit and winter vegetables as ideal intercrop for high altitude tea plantations in regions such as Munnar.
  • In rubber growing regions, the cultivation of rambutan, mangosteen and other tropical fruits in small plots interspersed among the trees has been suggested.
  • It had also suggested jack fruit as shade trees in tea, coffee and cardamom plantations.

What is intercropping?

It is the cultivation of two or more crops simultaneously on the same field.

The main goal is to produce a greater yield on a given piece of land by making use of resources of ecological processes that would otherwise not be utilised by a single crop.

There are different approaches to intercropping such as:

  1. Mixed intercropping – two or more crops are planted in a mix without a distinct row arrangement.
  2. Row intercropping – two or more crops are planted in distinct rows.
  3. Relay intercropping – two or more crops are grown at the same time as part of the life cycle of each i.e. a second crop is sown after the first crop has been well established but before it reaches its harvesting stage.
  4. Strip intercropping – growing two or more crops at the same time in separate strips wide enough apart for independent cultivation.

Advantages of intercropping:

More efficient use of light, water and other nutrient resources compared to single crops.

It allows for effective management of cover crops because crop mixtures have lower pest densities.

Potential increased crop yields per unit area.

Improved soil fertility by leguminous intercrops e.g. nitrogen fixing.

Reduced soil erosion.

Lowered soil surface evaporation.

Some cons of intercropping:

  • Intercropping is not always suited to a mechanised farming system.
  • Time consuming: It requires more attention and thus increased intensive, expert management.
  • There is reduced efficiency in planting, weeding and harvesting which may add to the labour costs of these operations.
  • The biggest challenge to adopting intercropping systems is the advance planning of planting, cultivation, fertilisation, spraying and harvesting of more than one crop in the same field. 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Different cropping patterns.
  2. Climatic conditions for tea and coffee.
  3. Types of intercropping.
  4. Pros and cons.
  5. What is Zero Budget Natural Farming?

Mains Link:

Discuss the features and significance of intercropping.

Sources: the Hindu.