What is Mixed Cropping and what are its benefits?

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Mixed cropping is a farming practice of sowing two or three crops together on the same land. Mixed cropping is a very old cropping formula against crop failure due to abnormal weather conditions. Crops are chosen in Mixed cropping such a way that no crop competes for resources like sunlight, nutrients, water, root pattern, crop duration.

The main focus of mixed cropping is to get produce from at least one crop. If one crop fails due to the shortage of nutrients, heavy rainfall, then the other crop can cover the risk of complete failure. The quantity of yield was not a priority. Recently farmers have moved from mixed cropping to Inter-cropping for better crop management and produce a high yield.

If one crop fails due to shortage of moisture or insufficient availability of nutrients, the other crop can cover the risk of complete failure.

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How are crops selected for mixed cropping?

Mixed cropping is an age-old practice. Farmers were spending a greater amount of their time on choosing the right mixed crops. The formula is simple and based on a lot of common sense involved. Keeping in mind the mixed crops are sown in a single hole.

The crops are selected for mixed cropping on the following criteria:

1.Growth Habit

Each crop should grow to different heights. No competition for sunlight. Choosing crops in such a way that one requires a lot of sunlight and others should be using less. For example, if three crops are chosen One should grow tall, others should be a climber which uses the first crop as its support and third should be creeper which grows on the ground. All the crops should be at the different canopy.

2.Root Pattern

If one crop is deep-rooted the other should be shallow-rooted. The root entangling is avoided to reduce competition on nutrients at different levels of soil.

3.Water Need

If one requires more then the other should require less. The basic avoidance of competition. If there are heavy rains then one crop will survive and the same applies during drought condition.

4.Crop duration

A mix of crops with a short duration and a long duration. Some yield sooner and others will take time. Harvesting times will be different. Harvesting should not affect the other crop.

5.Demand on Nutrients

A balance of nutrient availability is maintained. One crop should require less and others the more.

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What are the benefits of mixed cropping?

Mixed cropping is a proven age-old technique that is risk-proof. Farmers have chosen mixed cropping for the below benefits

1.Variety of Produce

Most of the small farmers practice mixed cropping. Depending on their family needs the crops are grown. A single crop can’t suffice their family needs. Some crops for pulses and some for vegetables.

2.Less risk of Crop failure

Small farmers in India are more dependent on Monsoon rains for the Kharif and Rabi crops. But sometimes, monsoon rains can be heavy and sometimes none. If a farmer is dependent on the single crop which is water-intensive and rains don’t make in time. The whole produce for that season is lost. But in the Mixed crop, the risk is very low. At least one crop will give the yield.

3.Improves Soil Fertility

The crops are chosen in such a way that at least one is leguminous. The legume crops fix the nitrogen in the soil. The non-legume plants consume the available nutrients. Mixed crop decomposition also adds up the nutrients to the soil. In anyway its a win-win situation for the farmer.

4.Weed control

When there are crops at the different canopy, the amount of sunlight reaching the ground is reduced significantly. When there is no sunlight then the weeds won’t germinate. Indirectly it’s less labor-intensive.

5.Pest control

Mixed cropping obviously reduces pest infestation. Each pest is attracted to the individual crop, if the crops are mixed you can expect helpful insects too. Good insects, birds feed on pests keeping them in control.

6.Increase in Yield

Crops are carefully chosen in order to help each other. The symbiotic relationship is maintained. For an example of leguminous plants, crops which support climbers. There is always a higher yield when you compare on monoculture.

Successful Mixed cropping examples

  • Cotton + groundnut
  • Corn + beans + pumpkin
  • Wheat + mustard/ Chickpea
  • Barley + Chickpea
  • Groundnut + sunflower
  • Pigeonpea + Green gram
  • Corn + black gram
  • Soybean + Pigeon pea

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Introduction of Fodder Crops in Mixed cropping

The fodder crops should be included in the grain or commercial crop rotation program. The practice of keeping the lands fallow for wheat, paddy, gram, etc. should be discontinued, and fodder crops like sorghum, pearl millet, cowpea and cluster bean should be introduced in Kharif in the rotation.

The fodder crops should also be sown with grain or commercial crops in such a way that they do not affect the production of grains. Along with sorghum and pearl millet, the legumes like cowpea, Dolichos, cluster bean, Clitoria, black gram and green gram, may very easily be grown as companion crops.

The legumes will not only provide nutritious fodder for sheep without adversely affecting the grain yield but will also improve the soil fertility through nitrogen fixation which in turn will be available to the grain crop.

It is essential that the program of feeds and fodder development should provide to the production and multiplication of seeds and planting materials of recommended fodder crops.

What is the difference between Mixed cropping and intercropping?

  1. Mixed cropping is a system of sowing two or three crops together on the same land. Inter-cropping is a system where two or more crops are grown in proximity.
  2. A mixed cropping aim is to minimize the risk of crop failure. Inter-cropping aim is to increase the productivity from the unit area.
  3. Seeds are mixed in Mixed cropping, where are it’s not in inter-cropping
  4. Mixed cropping has no pattern of rows and columns, pretty random sowing. Inter-cropping sowing follows rows and columns of different crops.
  5. The equal importance given to all crops in Mixed Cropping. But in inter-cropping, more emphasis is on the main crop.
  6. Mixed cropping Harvesting is not an easy task when your farm is big. In inter-cropping Harvesting is easy, as it follows the same crops in the columns.

What is the difference between mixed farming and mixed cropping?

Mixed farming is a combination of Crop cultivation with livestock farming, where mixed cropping is a practice of sowing two or three crops together on the same land.

In Mixed farming, the cattle produce enough fertilizer for the whole farm. It increases the per capita profitability. For small farmers, it’s a huge boon to do mixed farming and mixed cropping. Depending on monoculture is not a recommended option for a small scale farmer.

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