Multiple cropping

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We are quickly exhausting the earth’s resources. One way of reducing our overuse of resources is to grow local food and cut down on transportation. And with that comes a variety of other processes like packaging, advertising, need for chemical preservatives etc. Growing food locally through multiple cropping not only reduces the need for pesticides and chemicals but is also believed to provide better nutrition.

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[edit] Low Risk Source of Income and Food

A majority of farmers the world over, especially in developing countries, are involved in growing food locally through a method of cropping in which two or more species are planted in the same field in the same year. This system, called multiple cropping, is a low-risk source of food and income for families whose farm-size is small and who lack the capital to mechanize and expand their farm. With multi cropping the cultivators and their families are assured of year-long food supply and also have adequate employment opportunities. Though there is uncertainty whether this farming method can meet the growing global demand for food, they can definitely help the world's poorest farmers out of poverty.


[edit] Increased Biodiversity

Multiple cropping is said to increase biodiversity in organic agriculture and brings about improvement in soil fertility management and suppresses pests and diseases. For instance when tomatoes, onions and marigold are cropped together marigolds repel some of tomato's pests.

It has been scientifically proved that "low-tech 'sustainable agriculture, with use of natural pest control and fertilizer, such as crop rotation and organic farming, increases crop yields by an average of 79%, without risking future harvests. This is a boon for small farms where billions of the world’s poor live and work.

The integration of many farm enterprises gives farm families several advantages. More crops can be planted in a small space. For example, intercropping and relay cropping can allow a farmer to plant two crops — like maize and beans — in his field at the same time. The production of crops is usually spread over a longer period of the year, allowing for better vegetative cover to protect the soil.

The appropriate crops, crop combinations, planting times and planting patterns vary from place to place, depending on the local climate, soils, topography, water availability, pests and diseases, socio-economic conditions, and other factors.

[edit] Multiple-Cropping Patterns

Multiple-cropping patterns are described by the number of crops per year and the intensity of crop overlap.

Double cropping or triple cropping involves planting of two or three crops in sequence and with no overlap in growth cycle.

Intercropping is done to overlap significant parts of the growth cycle of two or more crops which are planted at the same time.

Relay cropping is where a second crop is planted after the first crop has flowered.

Ratoon cropping is when a crop is harvested and allowed to re-grow from the crowns or root systems. Sugarcane, alfalfa, and sudangrass are commonly produced in this way, while there is potential for such tropical cereals such as sorghum and rice. Variations to these systems are mixed cropping, strip cropping, associated cropping, and alternative cropping.

In rice cultivation, multiple cropping requires effective irrigation, especially where there are dry seasons.


Sustainable Agriculture

Multiple cropping falls under a category of agriculture which uses renewable natural resources to provide food, income and livelihood for current and future generations.

Multiple cropping systems result in efficient use of land resources. Some of these systems provide year-round coverage of crop land, thus reducing erosion and sustaining topsoil. Multiple cropping systems often allow fall seeded crops to emerge and establish good above ground growth before winter and spring weeds can get established. This increases the competitive edge of the cash crop and in some cases reduces the amount of herbicides required for weed control.

[edit] Advantages

  • With multiple cropping the risk of total loss from drought, pests and diseases is reduced. Some of the crops can survive and produce a yield.
  • It gives maximum production from small plots. This can help farmers cope with land shortages.
  • Including legumes in the cropping pattern helps maintain soil fertility by fixing nitrogen in the soil.
  • Different types of crops can be produced, thereby providing a balanced diet for the family.
  • Because of high planting density weeds are suppressed.
  • Different seasonal crops can be planted. For example, crops that require a lot of water can be grown in the wet season, intercropped with drought-resistant crops that can be harvested in the following dry season.

[edit] Disadvantages

  • Because of year-long crop some pests can shift from one crop to another.
  • The large number of different crops in the field makes it difficult to weed.
  • New technologies such as row planting, modern weeding tools and improved varieties may be difficult to introduce.

[edit] Terms Used in Multiple Cropping

Agro forestry: Growing trees along with annual crops and livestock. Alley cropping: Growing annual crops between rows of (often leguminous) trees or shrubs. Prunings from the trees or shrubs can be used as fertilizer, mulch or livestock fodder

Cropping pattern: The yearly sequence and spatial arrangement of crops, or of crops and fallow, on a given area.

Cropping system: The cropping patterns used on a farm and their interaction with farm resources, other farm enterprises and available technology which determine their make-up.

Farming system: All the elements of a farm which interact as a system, including people, crops, livestock, other vegetation, wildlife, the environment and the social, economic and ecological actions between them.

Intercropping: Planting two or more crops in the same field at the same time. Crops can be planted in rows (row intercropping), or the seed can be dibbled at random or broadcast (mixed intercropping). Planting in rows makes applying fertilizer, weeding and harvesting easier.

Monoculture: Growing the same crop year after year on the same piece of land.

Relay cropping: Growing two or more crops in a field with their growing seasons overlapping: e.g. planting a second crop in the field where one is already growing. After the harvest of the first crop, the second (often drought-resistant) crop continues to grow, and is harvested later.

Rotation: Changing the crops grown on a particular piece of land from season to season (or changing from crops to fallow).

Sequential cropping: Growing two or more crops in sequence in the same field in the same year. The second crop is planted after the first one is harvested.

Sole cropping: One crop variety grown alone in a pure stand.

Strip cropping: Planting of alternate strips of grasses or grains with other crops along the contour in order to conserve moisture and decrease erosion.


[edit] References

  • Multiple cropping
  • Sustainable Agriculture Extension Manual
  • Multiple Cropping as a Sustainable Agriculture Practice