Intercropping | 10 Types, Advantages and Disadvantages

Intercropping is a method of growing more than one crop in the same piece of land during the same crop season.

It has many advantages, related to the complementary use of environmental resources by the component crops.

This results in increased and better nutrient recycling in the soil, stable yields, better control of pests and diseases with increased biodiversity.

©FAO/Pietro Cenini


Simply intercropping can be defined as growing two or more crops simultaneously in the same piece of land. We can observe Crop intensification in terms of both space and time dimensions under the inter-cropping system.

The major benefit of intercropping is it increases the production per unit area compared to single cropping through the effective use of resources, nutrients including water, and solar energy. Inter-cropping is preferred over sole cropping as a result of superior yield due to the efficient utilization of available resources.

Main Crop or Base Crop

The base crop is one that grown as a main source of income in between the main crop vacant spaces we will plant intercrop to get extra returns.

Intercrop: It is the growing of a crop in the vacant spaces of another widely grown crop that has a short duration of life cycle mainly grown for getting extra profits or to mitigate the losses during main crop failure.

Different types of intercropping systems:

1. Mixed Intercropping or Mixed Cropping: Growing of two or more crops simultaneously on the same piece of land with no distinct row arrangement

2. Row Intercropping:

Maize and legumes in alternating rows (

It is a kind of intercropping where different crops are grown at the same time in the same piece of land with a distinct row arrangement.

3. Patch intercropping:

In this method of intercropping, intercrops are grown in patches in the vacant spaces in the same piece of land. 

4. Strip intercropping:

In this method, we will grow more than one crop in strips to allow independent cultivation in the same piece of land.

5. Relay Intercropping:

In relay intercropping intercrops were sown or planted when the main crops reach maturity but before harvesting of the base crop.

6. Parallel Intercropping:

In this method, both selected intercrop and main crops are with different growing habits. Hence, there will zero competition for the available resources. So, both crops can express their full yield potential.

7. Multi Storied Intercropping:

In multistoried intercropping crops with different heights were selected. Mostly this kind of intercropping is adopted in plantation crops.

8. Alley Intercropping:

Alley cropping is a kind of agroforestry system where intercrops are grown in the alleys of trees and hedges etc.

9. Guard Crops:

The main crop is grown in the center, where it is surrounded by hardy or thorny crops. Thus the main crop gets protection with the help of gourd crops.

Guard crops are mainly planted with a view to protecting the main crop. Guard crops are planted around the main crops in such a way to protect the main crop.

10. Trap Crops: 

Traps crops like marigold and mustard etc. are intercropped in between the main crop to trap various insect pests.

11. Filler Cropping:

It a method of cropping in which newly established orchards are planted with other filler crops in the juvenile period of the main crop for efficient utilization of space and to earn some extra profits.

12. Mixed Cropping:
It is said to be mixed cropping when two or more crops are grown in the same piece of land. In mixed cropping seeds of different crops are mixed and sown or broadcasted. Mixed cropping is popular in areas prone to natural calamities like drought, frost, etc. Further, though all the crops are sown at the same time, they mature at different times. Mixed cropping may cause problems in harvesting and carry out intercultural operations.

Rules to be followed in the selection of the intercropping crops

Caution should be ensured while selecting crops with different growth habits, duration, root growth, taxonomical families, etc.

  • Grow tall-growing crops along with bushy crops.
  • Select shallow-rooted crops as intercrops in the deep-rooted crop.
  • Long-duration crops should be intercropped with short-duration crops.
  • Grow slow-growing crops in vacant spaces of fast-growing crops.
  • Selected main crops and intercrops should show a very negligible allelopathic effect.
  • Need to intercrop non-legumes with intercrops.
  • Crops selected should be of different families to avoid various pests and diseases

Advantages of intercropping:

  • Better utilization of growth resources like nutrients, light, and moisture.
  • Mitigate losses where the failure of any one of the component crops occurs.
  • A farmer can get extra yield from the unit area.
  • Better utilization of space available with the time dimensions.
  • We can achieve better weed control by growing intercrops.
  • Minimizes the chances of soil crust formation.
  • Mitigate losses where the failure of any one of the component crops occurs.
  • Inter crops will also enhance soil fertility.
  • Controls soil erosion.
  • To some extent, the pests and diseases of the main crop get controlled.
  • Ecological stability.
  • Cultivation practices for the major crop will also supplement the requirement of companion crops.
  • It provides shading and physical support to some crops.
  • It provides extra income to the farmers.
  • It provides daily needs for the farmers.
  • Intercropping will also generate extra employment for agrarian people.

Disadvantages of intercropping:

  • Sometimes intercrops work as alternate hosts for various pests and diseases.
  • Differential maturity and sometimes harvesting may become a problem.
  • It becomes difficult to control various pests and diseases.
  • Intercropping is a labor-intensive practice.
  • Allelopathic effect.
  • Possibility of problems in carrying out intercultural operations.
  • Difficulty in mechanization.
  • There might arise a competition among the component crops.


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