Annual intercrops An alternative pathway for sustainable

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AJCS 5 4 396 410 2011 ISSN 1835 2707,Review article. Annual intercrops an alternative pathway for sustainable agriculture. A S Lithourgidis1 C A Dordas2 C A Damalas3 D N Vlachostergios4. Department of Agronomy Aristotle University Farm of Thessaloniki 570 01 Thermi Greece. Laboratory of Agronomy Aristotle University of Thessaloniki 541 24 Thessaloniki Greece. Department of Agricultural Development Democritus University of Thrace 682 00 Orestiada Greece. Fodder Crops and Pastures Institute National Agricultural Research Foundation 413 35 Larissa Greece. Corresponding author lithour agro auth gr, Intercropping the agricultural practice of cultivating two or more crops in the same space at the same time is an old and commonly. used cropping practice which aims to match efficiently crop demands to the available growth resources and labor The most common. advantage of intercropping is the production of greater yield on a given piece of land by making more efficient use of the available. growth resources using a mixture of crops of different rooting ability canopy structure height and nutrient requirements based on. the complementary utilization of growth resources by the component crops Moreover intercropping improves soil fertility through. biological nitrogen fixation with the use of legumes increases soil conservation through greater ground cover than sole cropping. and provides better lodging resistance for crops susceptible to lodging than when grown in monoculture Intercrops often reduce pest. incidence and improve forage quality by increasing crude protein yield of forage Intercropping provides insurance against crop. failure or against unstable market prices for a given commodity especially in areas subject to extreme weather conditions such as. frost drought and flood Thus it offers greater financial stability than sole cropping which makes the system particularly suitable. for labor intensive small farms Besides intercropping allows lower inputs through reduced fertilizer and pesticide requirements. thus minimizing environmental impacts of agriculture However intercropping has some disadvantages such as the selection of the. appropriate crop species and the appropriate sowing densities including extra work in preparing and planting the seed mixture and. also extra work during crop management practices including harvest The selection of an appropriate intercropping system for each. case is quite complex as the success of intercropping systems depend much on the interactions between the component species the. available management practices and the environmental conditions Plant breeding can contribute determinedly to increase of. productivity of intercropping systems by investigating and exploiting the genetic variability to intercrop adaptation This paper. provides an overall view and evaluation of annual intercropping summarizing its main advantages supported by a number of key. examples from the literature which point out its great value in the context of sustainable agriculture. Keywords Agrobiodiversity crop mixtures monocultures intercropping sustainable agriculture. Introduction, Self sustaining low input and energy efficient agricultural intercropping and agroforestry Altieri 1999 Mal zieux et. systems in the context of sustainable agriculture have always al 2009 While modern agriculture has brought vast. been in the centre of attention of many farmers researchers increases in productivity to the world s farming systems it is. and policy makers worldwide Altieri et al 1983 Altieri widely recognized that much of this may have come at the. 1999 However most practices of modern agriculture e g price of sustainability Tilman et al 2002 Lichtfouse et al. mechanization monocultures improved crop varieties and 2009 This is because modern farming systems imply the. heavy use of agrochemicals for fertilization and pest simplification of the structure of the environment over vast. management led to a simplification of the components of areas replacing natural plant diversity with only a limited. agricultural systems and to a loss of biodiversity Restoring number of cultivated plants in extensive areas of arable. on farm biodiversity through diversified farming systems that monocultures Vandermeer et al 1998 By contrast on. mimic nature is considered to be a key strategy for farm biodiversity is familiar to traditional farmers mainly in. sustainable agriculture Jackson et al 2007 Scherr and developing countries where traditional farming systems are. McNeely 2008 On farm biodiversity if correctly characterized by their great degree of genetic diversity in the. assembled in time and space can lead to agroecosystems form of mixed cropping and agroforestry patterns based on. capable of maintaining their own soil fertility regulating numerous varieties of domesticated crop species as well as. natural protection against pests and sustaining productivity their wild relatives Altieri 1999 These farming systems. Thrupp 2002 Scherr and McNeely 2008 Biodiversity in offer a means of promoting diversity of diet and income. agroecosystems can be enhanced in time through crop stability of production reduced insect and disease incidence. rotations and sequences in space through cover crops efficient use of labor intensification of production with. limited resources and also maximization of returns under the same piece of land using machinery and inorganic. low levels of technology Anil et al 1998 Mal zieux et al fertilizers small scale farmers who often do not have readily. 2009 Intercropping also referred to as mixed cropping or access to markets and grow enough food only to sustain. polyculture is the agricultural practice of cultivating two or themselves and their families recognize that intercropping is. more crops in the same space at the same time Andrews and one good way of ensuring their livelihood Intercropping is a. Kassam 1976 Ofori and Stern 1987 Anil et al 1998 The common practice in many areas of Africa as a part of. component crops of an intercropping system do not traditional farming systems commonly implemented in the. necessarily have to be sown at the same time nor they have to area due to declining land sizes and food security needs. be harvested at the same time but they should be grown Dakora 1996 It is mostly practiced on small farms with. simultaneously for a great part of their growth periods In limited production capacity due to lack of capital to acquire. intercropping there is normally one main crop and one or inputs Features of an intercropping system can differ largely. more added crop s with the main crop being of primary with soil conditions local climate economic situation and. importance for economic or food production reasons The preferences of the local community Several crop species. two or more crops in an intercrop normally are from different have been identified as suitable or unsuitable for. species and different plant families or less commonly they intercropping Local varieties which have been selected over. may be simply different varieties or cultivars of the same the years for this purpose are used for intercropping. crop such as mixing two or more kinds of wheat seed in the However in the mechanized agricultural sector of Europe. same field The most common advantage of intercropping is North America and some parts of Asia intercropping is far. to produce a greater yield on a given piece of land by less widespread This is because modern agriculture has. achieving more efficient use of the available growth shifted the emphasis to a more market related economy and. resources that would otherwise not be utilized by each single this has tended to favour intensive monocropping systems. crop grown alone There are many different kinds of species Horwith 1985 Although agricultural research originally. that can be used for intercropping such as annuals e g focused on sole cropping and ignored the potential of. cereals and legumes perennials including shrubs and trees intercropping there has been a gradual recognition of the. or a mixture of the two annuals and perennials In the case value of this kind of cropping system In fact despite its. of shrubs and trees the term mostly used is agroforestry The advantages the agricultural intensification in terms of plant. objective of this paper was to provide an overall view and breeding mechanization fertilizer and pesticide use. evaluation of annual intercropping summarizing its main experienced during the last 50 years has led to elimination of. advantages supported by a number of key examples from the intercropping from many farming systems However. published literature which point out its great value in the intercropping has been shown to produce higher and more. context of sustainable agriculture The paper focuses stable yields in a wide range of crop combinations while the. exclusively on annual intercropping and not on agroforestry system is characterized by minimal use of inputs such as. fertilizers and pesticides emphasizing the production of. Intercropping worldwide healthy safe and high quality food in the context of. environmentally sound production For organic sector. Traditional agriculture as practiced through the centuries all intercropping is considered an effective means of self. around the world has always included different forms of regulation and resilience of the organic agroecosystems to. intercropping In fact many crops have been grown in meet environmental perturbations in the organic culture. association with one another for hundred years and crop practice Lammerts van Bueren et al 2002 Organic farmers. mixtures probably represent some of the first farming have practically no chemical tools to confront environmental. systems practiced Plucknett and Smith 1986 Various types fluctuations since according to the principles of organic. of intercropping were known and presumably employed in agriculture and the European Union regulation 2092 91. ancient Greece about 300 B C Theophrastus among the agrochemicals are not allowed Nowadays organic farmers. greatest early Greek philosophers and natural scientists notes still depend mainly on modern varieties developed from. that wheat barley and certain pulses could be planted at conventional breeding programs Murphy et al 2007. various times during the growing season often integrated Vlachostergios and Roupakias 2008 Vlachostergios et al. with vines and olives indicating knowledge of the use of 2010 but the majority of these varieties cannot face up. intercropping Papanastasis et al 2004 Today efficiently problems as pest and fungus pathogens weed. intercropping is commonly used in many tropical parts of the competitiveness or resource exploitation under organic. world particularly by small scale traditional farmers Altieri farming systems Wolfe et al 2008 Lammerts van Bueren. 1991 Traditional multiple cropping systems are estimated to et al 2003 On the contrary intercropping offers effective. still provide as much as 15 20 of the world s food supply weed suppression pest and disease control and use of soil. Altieri 1999 In Latin America farmers grow 70 90 of resources under organic farming systems Bulson et al. their beans with maize potatoes and other crops whereas 1997 Theunissen 1997 Jensen et al 2005 The last. maize is intercropped on 60 of the maize growing areas of decades several organic farmers are experimenting and. the region Francis 1986 Other quantitative evaluations gradually adapt intercropping systems in order to benefit. suggest that 89 of cowpeas in Africa are intercropped 90 from the advantages of intercropping Entz et al 2001. of beans in Colombia are intercropped and the total. percentage of cropped land actually devoted to intercropping Types of intercropping spatial and temporal patterns. varies from a low 17 for India to a high of 94 in Malawi. Vandermeer 1989 In the tropical regions intercropping is Several types of intercropping all of which vary the temporal. mostly associated with food grain production whereas in the and spatial mixture to some degree have been described. temperate regions it is receiving much attention as a means of Andrews and Kassam 1976 The degree of spatial and. efficient forage production Anil et al 1998 Lithourgidis et temporal overlap in the component crops can vary somewhat. al 2006 Although intensive monocropping is much easier but both requirements must be met for a cropping system to. for large scale farmers who plant and harvest one crop on be an intercrop Thus there are several different modes of. component crops Willey 1985 Yield advantage occurs. because growth resources such as light water and nutrients. are more completely absorbed and converted to crop biomass. by the intercrop over time and space as a result of differences. in competitive ability for growth resources between the. component crops which exploit the variation of the mixed. crops in characteristics such as rates of canopy development. final canopy size width and height photosynthetic, adaptation of canopies to irradiance conditions and rooting. depth Midmore 1993 Morris and Garrity 1993 Tsubo et. al 2001 Regularly intercropped pigeonpea or cowpea can. help to maintain maize yield to some extent when maize is. grown without mineral fertilizer on sandy soils in sub humid. zones of Zimbabwe Waddington et al 2007 Intercropping. maize with cowpea has been reported to increase light. interception in the intercrops reduce water evaporation and. improve conservation of the soil moisture compared with. Annual intercrops An alternative pathway for sustainable agriculture Article in Australian Journal of Crop Science April 2011 CITATIONS 251 READS 1 346 4 authors Some of the authors of this publication are also working on these related projects effect of alternate irrigiation on sweet corn varieties View project Predicting adoption of biological control among Iranian rice farmers An

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