Intercropping

 
      
 
 
 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers
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Knowledge Nuggets
  • Intercropping is growing two or more crops in the same field at the same time.
  • There are different approaches to intercropping. With one, you can grow multiple main crops in order to maximize yields. Or, you can grow one main crop with a secondary crop that provides benefits such as weed control, erosion prevention or pest suppression.
  • Intercropping increases biodiversity, improving the ability of an agricultural system to handle changes in growing conditions.
  • Mixed intercropping is growing two or more crops in the same field at the same time without distinct rows.
  • Row intercropping is growing two or more crops in the same field at the same time with at least one seeded in distinct rows.
  • Strip intercropping is growing two or more crops in the same field at the same time in wide, alternating strips. These strips are usually the width of the seeder.
  • Relay intercropping is growing two or more crops in the same field for part of the same growing season. In this case, only a portion of the life cycles of the crops overlap.
  • In temperate areas of the world, like Canada, intercropping has been more widely adopted for forage production rather than for grain production.
  • Mixed grass-legume pastures and hayfields are two examples of intercropping for forage production.
  • Research has shown that intercropping grasses and legumes for hay or pasture improves: yield, yield stability, seasonal production distribution, forage quality, stand resilience, nutrient use and the ability to resist weed encroachment.
  • Including a perennial forage legume in a grass pasture or hayfield also adds nitrogen to the system, reducing the need for commercial fertilizers.
  • Intercropping annual cereals for silage or greenfeed is popular in Canada. Research has found that seeding two annual cereals together, such as barley and triticale, can improve yield, yield stability, and forage quality compared to a sole cereal crop.
  • Annual legumes, such as peas, can also be intercropped with spring cereals for greenfeed or silage. The addition of a vigorous pea cultivar at a high enough seeding rate increases overall forage quality compared to the sole cereal crop.
  • Spring and winter cereal crops are often intercropped for grazing. Annual pastures seeded in the spring with 20-25 lbs/ac of a spring cereal and 100-110 lbs/ac of a winter cereal will be ready for grazing earlier than a sole winter cereal crop.
  • Spring and winter cereals can also be intercropped for an early greenfeed or silage harvest, followed by grazing the regrowth of the winter cereal in the fall or following spring. Each should be seeded at 75% of their normal rate.
  • The 75% seeding rates of the spring and winter cereal intercrops can be modified to shift priority to either greenfeed/silage (increasing the spring cereal seeding rate) or grazing (increasing the winter cereal seeding rate).
  • In general, benefits of intercropping include: improved yields and yield stability, enhanced use of water and nutrients, increased weed suppression, increased pest and disease resistance, reduced soil erosion and improved forage quality.
  • One main drawback to intercropping deals with water use. The longer season of growth of an intercrop will result in greater soil moisture use than a shorter season of growth with a monocrop. In environments with limited moisture, the yield of the crop seeded in the following year will be lower.
  • Other drawbacks to intercropping include: lower yields if the species grown together are not compatible, potential competition for water in drier areas and difficulty managing the multiple crops.
  • Potential management issues could involve seeding rates, seeding methods, weed control options and harvesting.
  • If you are considering intercropping, be sure to understand the growth and rooting habits, canopy structure, and water and nutrient use of the crops to be seeded so that they complement one another.
Fact Sheets

Agronomic Benefits of Intercropping Annual Crops in Manitoba

Cereal/Pea or Spring Cereal/Winter Cereal Intercropping - Frequently Asked Questions

Cultivar Mixtures, Cover Crops and Intercropping with Organic Spring Wheat

Intercropping

Weed Management Options which Reduce Pesticide Risk: Intercropping and Cover Cropping

Winter Cereals for Pasture

Research Papers

Adaptation of Winter Cereal Species to Shade and Competition in a Winter/Spring Cereal Forage Mixture - available in PDF format only

Barley, Oat and Cereal-Pea Mixtures as Dryland Forages in the Northern Great Plains

Binary Legume-Grass Mixtures Improve Forage Yield, Quality and Seasonal Distribution - available in PDF format only

Cropping Systems for Annual Forage Production in Northeast Saskatchewan - available in PDF format only

Delay of Harvest Effects on Forage Yield and Regrowth in Spring and Winter Cereal Mixtures - available in PDF format only

Dry Matter Yields of Cool-Season Grass Monocultures and Grass-Alfalfa Binary Mixtures - available in PDF format only

Enhancing Pasture Productivity with Alfalfa: A Review - available in PDF format only

Forage Potential of Intercropping Barley with Faba Bean, Lupin, or Field Pea - available in PDF format only

Forage Potential of Intercropping Berseem Clover with Barley, Oat or Triticale - available in PDF format only

Intercropping Berseem Clover with Barley and Oat Cultivars for Forage - available in PDF format only

Intercropping Irrigated Corn with Annual Legumes for Fall Forage in the High Plains

Intercropping Red Clover with Silage Corn for Soil Erosion Control - available in PDF format only

Mixtures of Annual Crops for Forage in Central Alberta - available in PDF format only

Mixtures of Persian Clover with Italian Ryegrass of Barley-Italian Ryegrass for Annual Forage - available in PDF format only

Nitrogen and Land-Use Efficiency in Annual Sole Crops and Intercrops

Optimum Stand Density of Spring Triticale for Grain Yield and Alfalfa Establishment

Optimizing Seeding Rates for Winter Cereal Grains and Frost-Seeded Red Clover Intercrops

Plant Species Diversity and Management of Temperate Forage and Grazing Land Ecosystems - available in PDF format only

Post-Flowering Forage Potential of Spring and Winter Cereal Mixtures - available in PDF format only

Response of Forage Yield and Yield Components to Planting Date and Silage/Pasture Management in Spring Seeded Winter Cereal/Spring Oat Cropping Systems - available in PDF format only

Row Configuration and Nitrogen Application for Barley-Pea Intercropping in Montana

Seeding Ratios and Rates that Maximize Annual Forage Production in Black Soil Zones of Central Saskatchewan - available in PDF format only

Spring Yield and Silage Characteristics of Kura Clover, Winter Wheat and in Mixtures

The Ecological Role of Biodiversity in Agroecosystems - available in PDF format only

Winter Cereal Canopy Effect on Cereal and Interseeded Legume Productivity

Winter Cereal, Seeding Rate and Intercrop Seeding Rate Effect on Red Clover Yield and Quality

Yield and Nutritive Value of Irrigated Winter Cereal Forage Grass-Legume Intercrops in the Southern High Plains, USA

Yield and Quality of Forage from Intercrops of Barley and Annual Ryegrass - available in PDF format only
 
 
 
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Linda Hunt.
This information published to the web on April 18, 2012.
Last Reviewed/Revised on June 22, 2016.
 

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