Chapter 8

Intercropping on Organic Farms

Benefits and Limitations of Intercropping

Benefits of Intercropping

Intercropping provides increased diversity, which facilitates better biological control of pests and reduced soil erosion, resulting in risk spreading and reduced pest and disease incidence. When two or more crops are grown on the same field, the risk of crop failure is spread over the different crops as the different crops have different periods and patterns of growth, and are affected by different pests. When two or more crops with different rooting systems, a different pattern of water and nutrient demand, and different aboveground habit are planted together, water, nutrients, and sunlight are used more efficiently.

Limitations of Intercropping

Depending of the crops intercropped, competition for water, light and nutrients may result in lower yields. One limitation with intercropping is that it is not often compatible in farming systems where there is a high degree of mechanization or when the component crops have different requirements for inputs. Intercropping often calls for careful timing of field operations, and it may necessitate special interventions to keep competition between the intercropped species in balance. A crop mix that works well in one year may fail the next if weather favors one crop over another. A mixture of crops with different growth forms or timing of development may make cultivation and use of inputs more difficult and less effective.

Click on the following topics for more information on intercropping on organic farms.