Intercropping is the practice of placing different crops in close proximity to each other. This allows a greater density of plants, which can each take up different nutrients from a well kept soil. It is a practice often associated with sustainable agriculture and organic farming. It forms a part of polyculture. Examples of intercropping strategies are planting a deep-rooted crop with a shallow-rooted crop, or planting a tall crop with a shorter crop that requires partial shade.

The goal of intercropping is to produce a greater yield on a given piece of land, by making use of space that would otherwise be wasted with a single crop. Careful planning is required, taking into account the soil, climate, crops and varieties. It is particularly important not have crops competing with each other for space, nutrients, water or sunlight.

Intercropping of compatible plants also encourages biodiversity, by providing a habitat for a variety of insects and soil organisms that would not be present in a single crop environment.

An example is the multi-tier system where coconut occupies the upper tier, banana the middle tier, and pineapple, ginger, or leguminous fodder, medicinal or aromatic plants the lower tier.

Alley cropping and companion planting are particular forms of intercropping.

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Keywords organic farming, sustainable agriculture
Published 2007
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