Importance of Different Types of Cropping System
Traditional farmers to date follow crop rotation, multi-cropping, intercropping and polyculture systems to make full use of all the inputs available to them, including soil, water and light, at a minimum price to the environment. Kerala's home gardens are an excellent example.
Crop Rotation: This is the crop sequence where two different crop types follow each other. Some instances include cereals and legumes, deep-rooted and short-rooted crops and where the second crop can make use of the manure or irrigation supplied to the first crop a few months prior (i.e. rice+ wheat, rice + cotton).
Multicropping: This is the cultivation of two or more crops simultaneously. Farmers have already been known to sow as many as 15 crop types at one time in the Indian agricultural tradition. An instance of multi-cropping is Tomatoes + Onions + Marigold (where some tomato pests are repelled by the marigolds).
Intercropping: This is the cultivation of another crop in the spaces between the primary crops. An excellent example is the multi-tier coconut +banana + pineapple /ginger/leguminous fodder / medicinal or aromatic plants. While ensuring biodiversity within a farm, intercropping also enables for maximum utilization.
Polyculture: The above are the forms of polyculture and biodiversity; this helps to keep the pest population in control. Leaf fall and other crop residues in combination add more importance to the soil or compost heap they become a part of, again due to the nutritional mix.
Cover Cropping: This is usually done with nitrogen-fixing crops that grow rapidly and require little or no inputs such as water or additional manuring. While cover crops can produce some returns, they are mostly used to cover the soil, add nitrogen to the soil, suppress weeds, prevent soil erosion, and later used as biomass or fodder. Velvet bean is a simple example that finds use as a fodder crop and as a generator for biomass. Another useful cover crop is the Dolichos lablab, a source of fodder and food.
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