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Productive efficiency of traditional multiple cropping systems compared to monocultures of seven crop species: A benchmark study

Authors:
  • Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies
LIFE SCIENCE AND BIOMEDICINE
NOVEL-RESULT
Productive efficiency of traditional multiple cropping
systems compared to monocultures of seven crop species:
a benchmark study
Debal Deb
Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, 186A, Kalikapur Canal Road, Ekatré 2
nd
Floor, Kolkata, India
Corresponding author. E-mail: debdebal@gmail.com
(Received 06 April 2021; Revised 04 May 2021; Accepted 04 May 2021)
Keywords: Land Equivalent Ratio; Mixed Cropping; Multiple Cropping; Productivity
1. Introduction
Despite the global trend of crop intensification and upscaling of crop monocultures, traditional multiple
cropping (MC) systems are still in vogue in traditional farms in the global South, primarily maintained by
small and medium farmers (IAASTD, 2009; La Via Campesina, 2010; Panneerselvam et al., 2011; Singh
et al., 2002). Traditional MC systems are common in countries with high extent of subsistence agriculture
and low degree of agricultural mechanization (Brooker et al., 2015; Ngwira et al., 2012). The species
heterogeneity and the complexity of community interactions in MC systems can provide pest control
benefits, weed control advantages, reduced wind erosion, improved water infiltration, and enhance crop
productivity (Francis & Porter, 2017; Gliessman, 2015; Malézieux et al., 2009).
A general agroecological understanding of superior yield potential of MC systems notwithstanding
(Gliessman, 2015; Huang et al., 2015; Liu et al., 2018; Raza et al., 2019), there exist very few published
studies to examine crop productivity in MC systems compared to monocultures of the same crops in the
tropics (e.g. Runkulatile et al., 1998; Morales-Rosales & Franco-Mora, 2009; Hamzei & Seyedi, 2015), and
none of the published studies have examined MC systems involving more than 2 crops. The present study
is an attempt to fill this lacuna.
2. Objective
To examine the agronomic performance of traditional MC farms growing 7 crops, compared to mono-
cultures of the same crop species, planted in the same edapho-climatic condition within the same
geographic location.
3. Study sites and methods
Four farms in the village of Beradangpadar (19° 28028.160N, 83° 3443.5400 E) and four in the village of
Leningpadar (19° 30040.780N, 83° 3441.2300 E) in the District of Rayagada of Odisha, India were selected
for study in 2019 during the kharif season (JuneDecember). All these 8 farms are owned by indigenous
farmers, who traditionally grow 68 crop species on their farms every season.
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted re- use, distribution and reproduction,
provided the original article is properly cited.
Experimental Results (2021), 2, e18, 110
doi:10.1017/exp.2021.7
3.1. Monocrop or sole-crop (SC) plot design:
From the local farmerscrop repertoire, we chose 7 species representing fruit crops, leafy vegetables and
cereals in this study. Two fruit crops (okra Abelmoschus esculentum and brinjal Solanum nigricum),
3 cereal crops (rice Oryza sativa ssp. indica, little millet Panicum sumatrense and finger millet Eleusine
coracana), and two leaf crops (red amaranth Amaranthus cruentus and green amaranth Amaranthus
viridis) were planted in separate SC plots. The same cropping design was replicated in all the 8 farms. The
SC plots were of the same size, with 240 cm (7 rows) x 520 cm (14 columns) for brinjal, and 150 cm x
325 cm for all other crops. .
3.2. Multiple cropping (MC) plot designs:
All the 7 crop species were planted in the multiple cropping (MC) farms. In each farm, three test plots
(designated A,B, and C) were demarcated, composed of 21 x 21 cells, measuring ca. 28 m
2
,to
accommodate 3 sets of rows and columns, as shown in Fig. 1.
Design A, consisting of row intercropping, was planted to all 7 species identically arranged in
7 successive rows, repeated 3 times over, row-wise and column-wise.
Design Bwas non-random mixed cropping, where 7 crop species were planted in a fixed order,
with each cell diagonally matching the species in the previous row and column. Thus, each row and
each column differed in crop combination, although the order remained the same, repeated
3 times over.
Design Cwas a different design of non-random mixed cropping. The order of crops was different
from that of design B, yet each cell repeated the crops diagonally matching the previous row and
column.
On all plots, crop plants were planted, following customary practice, at a uniform spacing of 40 cm x
40 cm, with a planting density of 6.25 m
2
for brinjal (Solanum nigricum) saplings, and at 25 cm x 25 cm
(or 16 m
2
density) for all other crops.
3.3. Quantification of crop production:
The edible parts of each crop were harvested after maturity, and the fresh weight of the edible biomass
harvested from each row and column was separately measured using a spring balance. Crop productivity
per plant was measured as:
Yij ¼Pij=Ni(eq. 1)
where N
i
is the number of crop i= 1,2,3, 7 and P
ij
is the total edible biomass output of crop ifrom the
plot j.
3.4. Statistical analyses:
Yield efficiency was measured by land equivalent ratio (LER), following Gliessman (2015):
LER ¼X
7
i¼1
YiMC=YiSC
ðÞ (eq. 2)
where Y
iMC
is the per-plant yield (in kg) of the i
th
crop in the multiple cropping (MC) system, and Y
iSC
is
the yield of the same crop in monoculture or sole crop (SC) plots. The total number of crops grown in the
poly-crop farm plots, Σi= 7. The confidence interval of the LER estimates was measured at p= 95%.
2 Debal Deb
4. Results and discussion
Plot-wise crop yield data from SC farms are presented in Table S-1. Yield data from MC farms of Design
A,B, and Care given in Table S-2, S-3, and S-4, respectively. Among the row cropped MC plots (Design
A), brinjal fruit biomass in plots A2 and A8 was entirely lost due to severe pest attack. However, all other
plots yielded considerable edible biomass, though the quantity was variable. A summary of the mean crop
yields from the SC and MC farms is given in Figure 2. Crop yield was variable in the 8 replicates of
Fig. 1. The Planting Designs A (row cropping), B and C (mixed cropping) for 7 Crop Species.
Experimental Results 3
monoculture farms, owing to different environmental factors. It appears that the productivity per plant is
considerably improved in design Band Design C, compared to the row cropping system in design A.
Data presented in Tables S1 to S4 and Figure 2 show that crop output per plant of each of the 7 crops in
the MC farms is distinctly less than that cultivated in the SC farms. However, the LER analyses of the
replicated MC farms draw a different picture. When different species are planted in alternate rows
(design A), the combined yield of the 7 crops is marginally less in MC farms A-5, A-6 and A-8, while the
LER exceeds 1 for all other replications of design A, implying no significant difference in yield efficiency
from monocultures of the same crops (Table 1). The mean LER for all MC farms in design Ais 1.18, with a
95% confidence interval (0.9, 1.46). Considering the severe crop damage in two replications of the row
cropped farms (Design A), we eliminated the brinjal crop and recalculated the LER for these plots, which
Fig. 2. Mean Yield of Crops in SC plots compared to MC plots, planted in designs A, B and C. Vertical bars show standard
deviations of the mean.
Table 1. LER Values of Multiple Crops Planted in Design A(Row Cropping). (Values corresponding to each crop is its Partial
LER in each replicate)
Farm Replications, Design A
Crop A-1 A-2 A-3 A-4 A-5 A-6 A-7 A-8
Brinjal 0.42 0.00 0.53 0.68 0.29 0.27 0.51 0.00
Okra 0.60 0.50 0.62 0.28 0.26 0.50 0.34 0.52
Finger Millet 0.01 0.02 0.03 0.01 0.02 0.02 0.02 0.07
Rice 0.19 0.28 0.23 0.08 0.04 0.04 0.07 0.10
Little Millet 0.06 0.21 0.15 0.13 0.08 0.03 0.03 0.03
Green Amaranth 0.12 0.02 0.08 0.14 0.13 0.05 0.04 0.03
Red Amaranth 0.09 0.02 0.10 0.14 0.11 0.03 0.04 0.03
LER 1.50 1.04 1.74 1.46 0.94 0.95 1.05 0.78
4 Debal Deb
showed no appreciable difference between the two means (t= 0.42, p> 0.1). This indicates that whether
6 or 7 crops are grown in row cropping, the overall crop productivity scarcely exceeds that of mono-
cultures, and therefore, LER is not appreciably greater than 1.
The species count in each column (alpha diversity) of all the replicate plots in design A(Table S-1) is
no more than 1, although the overall species count of all the farms (beta diversity) is 7. Thus, the alpha
diversity in the rows of MC farm of design Ais identical to monoculture farms. In contrast, the alpha and
the beta diversity in Designs Band Cis 7, and therefore these MC systems are likely to significantly
enhance the synergistic effect on crop productivity.
The LER for the 8 MC farms planted in design Branges from 4.07 to 6.16 (Table 2), with a mean of
5.15, with a 95% confidence interval of (4.6, 5.7). Similarly, the LER for the 8 MC farms in design C ranges
from 3.9 to 6.64, as shown in Table 3. The mean LER for this design is 5.67, with a 95% confidence interval
of (5.0, 6.3). The agroecological implication is that in mixed cropping systems, the crop species would
require >5 times land area in monocultures to equal the mean productivity of the same crops in the MC
farms, planted in either Design Bor C.
Table 2. LER Values of Mixed Crop Farns Planted in Design B. (Values corresponding to each crop is its Partial LER in each
replicate)
Farm Replications, Design B
Crop B1 B2 B3 B4 B5 B6 B7 B8
Brinjal 0.52 0.39 0.43 1.00 0.17 0.29 0.67 0.71
Okra 0.67 0.67 0.50 0.39 0.30 0.67 0.66 0.69
Finger Millet 0.50 0.91 1.09 0.45 0.77 0.87 0.98 0.35
Rice 0.61 0.65 0.69 0.69 1.48 0.92 0.93 1.11
Little Millet 0.66 0.90 0.73 0.98 0.62 0.98 0.87 0.48
Green Amaranth 0.79 0.62 0.62 1.07 1.62 0.94 0.60 0.38
Red Amaranth 0.95 0.56 1.09 0.96 1.19 0.77 0.77 0.34
LER 4.71 4.70 5.15 5.54 6.16 5.44 5.47 4.07
Table 3. LER Values of Mixed Crop Farms Planted in Design C. (Values corresponding to each crop is its Partial LER in each
replicate)
Farm Replications, Design C
Crop C1 C2 C3 C4 C5 C6 C7 C8
Brinjal 0.54 0.36 0.50 0.66 0.61 0.18 0.92 0.27
Okra 0.78 0.66 0.55 0.33 1.40 0.47 0.90 0.24
Finger Millet 1.23 1.26 0.88 0.43 0.80 0.39 0.93 0.38
Rice 0.93 0.89 0.66 0.79 0.65 1.43 0.90 0.95
Little Millet 0.96 1.17 1.07 1.41 1.01 0.79 0.85 1.15
Green Amaranth 1.04 0.74 0.75 1.34 0.82 1.40 0.57 0.55
Red Amaranth 1.17 0.49 1.03 1.03 0.78 1.17 0.83 0.35
LER 6.64 5.57 5.44 5.99 6.07 5.83 5.90 3.90
Experimental Results 5
5. Conclusion and recommendation
The results of this study is in conformity with previous, albeit limited, number of experimental
productivity studies with multiple cropping systems (e.g. Picasso et al., 2008). The salient findings of
this study may be described as follows.
Measured by LER, MC farms are more productive than SC farms. However, not all MC farms are
equally productive; rather, their relative productive efficiency depends on the specific crop combination
and planting design. Row intercropping is scarcely more productive than monocultures.
In contrast, either a semi-randomly or uniformly heterogenous plantation of multiple crops in each
row and column is obviously more diverse in composition, and hence the impact of diversity on
productivity is likely to be more pronounced. This is exactly evidenced in our results of MC farms of
Design Band C, in which the overall per plant productivity of the crops is more than five times higher
than that of SC farms. Figure 3 prominently shows the difference between the mean LER of farms of
design Aand that of mixed cropping Design Band Design C. Drawing on these findings, agroecology
practitioners, researchers and policy makers may confidently promote mixed cropping and discontinue
monoculture, to enhance agrobiodiversity and food security.
Acknowledgements. All field data were meticulously collected by Ms Mahasweta Sahoo, Sri Pradeep Patra and Sri Sachin
Panigrahi. I am grateful to Mr Debjeet Sarangi of Living Farms, Bhubaneswar for providing all logistic support to this study.
Conflict of Interest. The author declares none.
Data Availability Statement. The data that support the findings of this study are openly available upon request.
Supplementary Materials. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/exp.2021.7.
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ONE,10, e0135518.
Fig. 3. Mean LER Values for MC farms, planted in designs A, B and C. Horizontal bars show standard deviations of the mean.
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Cite this article: Deb D (2021). Productive efficiency of traditional multiple cropping systems compared to monocultures of
seven crop species: a benchmark study Experimental Results, 2, e18, 110. https://doi.org/10.1017/exp.2021.7
Experimental Results 7
Peer Reviews
Reviewing editor: Dr. Richard Erickson
US Geological Survey, Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, 2630 Fanta Reed Rd, La Crosse, Wisconsin, United
States, 54603
This article has been accepted because it is deemed to be scientifically sound, has the correct controls, has
appropriate methodology and is statistically valid, and has been sent for additional statistical evaluation and met
required revisions.
doi:10.1017/exp.2021.7.pr1
Review 1: Productive Efficiency of Traditional Multiple Cropping Systems Compared to
Monocultures of Seven Crop Species: A Benchmark Study
Reviewer: Dr. G Poyyamoli
Date of review: 22 April 2021
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of
the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted re- use,
distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.
Conflict of interest statement. I have no conflict of interest
Comments to the Author: It is an excellent and timely article. Carry out the minor corrections suggested
Score Card
Presentation
4.4
/5
Is the article written in clear and proper English? (30%)
4/5
Is the data presented in the most useful manner? (40%)
5/5
Does the paper cite relevant and related articles appropriately? (30%)
4/5
Context
4.8
/5
Does the title suitably represent the article? (25%)
5/5
Does the abstract correctly embody the content of the article? (25%)
4/5
Does the introduction give appropriate context? (25%)
5/5
Is the objective of the experiment clearly defined? (25%)
5/5
Analysis
3.6
/5
Does the discussion adequately interpret the results presented? (40%)
3/5
Is the conclusion consistent with the results and discussion? (40%)
4/5
Are the limitations of the experiment as well as the contributions of
the experiment clearly outlined? (20%)
4/5
doi:10.1017/exp.2021.7.pr2
Review 2: Productive Efficiency of Traditional Multiple Cropping Systems Compared to
Monocultures of Seven Crop Species: A Benchmark Study
Reviewer: Dr. Noel Dayono
Date of review: 27 April 2021
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of
the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted re- use,
distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.
Conflict of interest statement. Reviewer declares none
Comments to the Author: Based on your results, some plots were severely affected by pest that influence
the result of your study. In your next experiment consider the compatibility of the crops so that you can
arrived a more significant and reliable results.
Score Card
Presentation
4.0
/5
Is the article written in clear and proper English? (30%)
4/5
Is the data presented in the most useful manner? (40%)
4/5
Does the paper cite relevant and related articles appropriately? (30%)
4/5
Context
4.2
/5
Does the title suitably represent the article? (25%)
5/5
Does the abstract correctly embody the content of the article? (25%)
4/5
Does the introduction give appropriate context? (25%)
4/5
Is the objective of the experiment clearly defined? (25%)
4/5
Analysis
4.4
/5
Does the discussion adequately interpret the results presented? (40%)
4/5
Is the conclusion consistent with the results and discussion? (40%)
5/5
Are the limitations of the experiment as well as the contributions of
the experiment clearly outlined? (20%)
4/5

Supplementary resource (1)

... Likewise, multiple cropping systems such as intercropping systems show some promise in weed suppression under certain conditions (Szumigalski and Van Acker, 2005), and this potential benefit of using multiple species should likely also apply to invasive alien plant suppression. Deb (2021) highlights the need for more such research in the tropics, indicating that there are few published studies comparing crop productivity of multiple crops compared to monocultures. ...
... Utilizing more than one crop competitor against weeds is a promising strategy in this ecological weed management paradigm. Using a variety of competitive plants such as cover crops or service crops represents one promising component of a more ecological approach to weed management in areas like the EU, Latin America, or tropical Asia where attempts are being made to avoid over-reliance on herbicides (Morales-Rosales and Franco-Mora, 2009;Liu et al., 2018;Deb, 2021;Tataridas et al., 2022). ...
... Comparing growth in monocultures, the branch number of mile-a-minute exceeded that of either sweet potato or hyacinth bean, but its branch number was severely suppressed in mixed culture, while the sweet potato branch number simultaneously increased. Thus, as in the case of other multiple cropping systems being tested in the tropics (Morales-Rosales and Franco-Mora, 2009; Liu et al., 2018;Deb, 2021), incorporating both sweet potato and hyacinth bean shows greater promise than either species planted as a competitive crop alone. Increasing biotic resistance in agroecosystems is often said to involve diversifying plant functional types (MacLaren et al., 2020), while in our specific system it is a matter of beating the invasive species at its own game, using two other vines as crops. ...
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Full-text available
Introduction In natural systems, diverse plant communities tend to prevent a single species from dominating. Similarly, management of invasive alien plants may be achieved through various combinations of competing species. Methods We used a de Wit replacement series to compare different combinations of sweet potato ( Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam), hyacinth bean ( Lablab purpureus (L.) Sweet) and mile-a-minute ( Mikania micrantha Kunth) through measures of photosynthesis, plant growth, nutrient levels in plant tissue and soil, and competitive ability. Results Cultured alone sweet potato and hyacinth beans exhibited higher total biomass, leafstalk length, and leaf area than mile-a-minute. In mixed culture, either sweet potato or hyacinth bean or both together significantly suppressed the mile-a-minute parameters, i.e., plant height, branch, leaf, adventitious root, and biomass (P<0.05). Based on a significantly lower than 1.0 relative yield of the three plant species in mixed culture, we showed intraspecific competition to be less than interspecific competition. Calculated indices (relative yield, relative yield total, competitive balance index, and change in contribution) demonstrated a higher competitive ability and higher influence of either crop compared to mile-a-minute. The presence of sweet potato and hyacinth bean, especially with both species in combination, significantly reduced (P<0.05) mile-a-minute’s net photosynthetic rate (Pn), antioxidant enzyme activities (superoxide dismutase, peroxidase, catalase, and malondialdehyde), chlorophyll content, and nutrient content (N, P, and K). In soil with mile-a-minute in monoculture soil organic matter, total and available N, total and available K, and available P were significantly greater (P<0.05) than in soil with sweet potato grown in monoculture, but less than in soil with hyacinth bean grown in monoculture soil. Nutrient soil content was comparatively reduced for plant mixtures. Plant height, leaf, biomass, Pn, antioxidant enzyme activities, and plant and soil nutrient contents of sweet potato and hyacinth bean tended to be much greater when grown with two crops compared to in mixture with just sweet potato or hyacinth bean. Discussion Our results suggest that the competitive abilities of both sweet potato and hyacinth bean were greater than that of mile-a-minute, and also that mile-a-minute suppression was significantly improved via a combination of the two crops compared to either sweet potato or hyacinth bean alone.
... Traditional mixed/poly cropping systems such as Navadhanya (Narayanasway, 2000), of the semi-arid and drylands of Rayalaseema region of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh (AP), Dongar chasa (cultivation over hillocks) of Odisha, and podu (shifting cultivation) systems and (Dash, 2006;Deb, 2021) Picasso, et al (2008) points out that species diversity can increase productivity of natural grasslands (Hector et al., 1999;Tilman et al., 2006), however, the effect of crop species diversity in agricultural systems is not well understood. However, studies on the socio-economic, agro-ecological, resilience, and yield potential of traditional mixed cropping systems like Navadhanya hitherto remains limited (Runkulatile, et al., 1998;Morales-Rosales & Franco-Mora, 2009;Hamzei & Seyedi, 2015;Deb, 2021). ...
... Traditional mixed/poly cropping systems such as Navadhanya (Narayanasway, 2000), of the semi-arid and drylands of Rayalaseema region of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh (AP), Dongar chasa (cultivation over hillocks) of Odisha, and podu (shifting cultivation) systems and (Dash, 2006;Deb, 2021) Picasso, et al (2008) points out that species diversity can increase productivity of natural grasslands (Hector et al., 1999;Tilman et al., 2006), however, the effect of crop species diversity in agricultural systems is not well understood. However, studies on the socio-economic, agro-ecological, resilience, and yield potential of traditional mixed cropping systems like Navadhanya hitherto remains limited (Runkulatile, et al., 1998;Morales-Rosales & Franco-Mora, 2009;Hamzei & Seyedi, 2015;Deb, 2021). Studies on the different dimensions of traditional cropping systems should be amplified to further the scientific understanding and mainstreaming of such crop systems. ...
... Picasso, et al (2008) found that polycultures out yielded monocultures on average by 73%. Similarly, Deb (2021) applied LER for measuring productivity and found that multiple cropping systems are more productive than single cropping farms. Loreau and Hector, (2001) elucidates that the diversity-productivity relationship can be explained by complementarity among species or by selection effects. ...
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Traditional mixed/poly cropping systems such as Navadhanya are the characteristic of rainfed agriculture. Such crop systems are perceived to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience against the vagaries of climate change, crop failures and market fluctuations and contributes to the increase in soil organic matter. However, studies on the socioeconomic , agro-ecological, resilience, and yield potential of traditional mixed cropping systems like Navadhanya remains limited. In this background, an analytical study was conducted to assess the productivity (yield) of peanut crop and the composite returns from all crops cultivated in Navadhanya cropping system under rainfed conditions in Ananthapuram and Chittoor districts of AP. The study adopts the Land Equivalent Ratio (LER) for interpretation and analytic generalization of results. Peanut was found to be the main crop in the study area and subsidiary/secondary crops include different pulses, nutri-cereals (millets) and oil seeds. Besides, peanut (the main crop), other crops of pigeon pea, filed bean and castor were found to be common across Navadhna-ya farms of the study site. However, green gram was missing from fields of farmers practicing 6 crops and sorghum and green gram were missing from fields of farmers practicing 5 crops under Navadhanya crop system. The average yield of peanut (bunch variety) was suggested to be between 324-405 kg/acre for Andhra Pradesh. In comparison with the average peanut yield suggested for AP, the results of the study suggests that yield of peanuts was best in farms with 7 crop species (42.67% higher), followed by farms with 6 crop species (27.87 % higher) and farms with 5 crop species (4.94 % higher). The yield in all three models was found to be better than the average yield (kg/acre) suggested for Andhra Pradesh. The results of the study are aligned with results of LER studies, therefore, it may be safe to say that productivity of Navadhanya cropping system is relatively higher than monocultures.
... Evidence from combinations of 3 crops is scarce (Dapaah et al. 2003;Andersen et al. 2007). The first experimental evidence of yield comparisons between MC farm plots with 7 crop species and sole-crop (SC) plots of the same crops species, appeared in Deb (2021), which revealed different degrees of efficiency of yield in different planting designs. Deb's (2021) study measured the yield advantage of MC over SC plots by the land equivalent ratio (LER) based on edible biomass yield per plant, although it is usually estimated by measuring yield per unit of land area under crop cover (Mead and Willey 1980;Weigelt and Jolliffe 2003;Khanal et al. 2021). ...
... The first experimental evidence of yield comparisons between MC farm plots with 7 crop species and sole-crop (SC) plots of the same crops species, appeared in Deb (2021), which revealed different degrees of efficiency of yield in different planting designs. Deb's (2021) study measured the yield advantage of MC over SC plots by the land equivalent ratio (LER) based on edible biomass yield per plant, although it is usually estimated by measuring yield per unit of land area under crop cover (Mead and Willey 1980;Weigelt and Jolliffe 2003;Khanal et al. 2021). Here we use both per plant (Y ir [p]) and per unit area (Y ir [a]) yields of the data from Deb (2021) to examine the sensitivity of LER with scaled units of measurement. ...
... A total of eight farms in the State of Odisha, India were selected for our experiments, whose details are given in Deb (2021). All these 8 farms are owned by indigenous farmers, who traditionally grow 6 to 12 crop species on their farms every season. ...
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Land equivalent ratio (LER) is most widely used indicator of yield advantage of multi-crop farms over sole-crop farms, and usually measured using crop biomass yield .per unit area. Most often, crop yields are compared between both systems using the same area. In this paper we demonstrate that although the yield per unit area and the yield per plant are widely different, LER remains invariant. As a corollary, area time equivalent ratio (ATER) and land use efficiency (LUE), derived from LER, also remain unchanged when using the two different measures of crop yields. We recommend that when the estimation of the exact land area is difficult due to complex crop planting designs, yield per plant estimate is much easier and equally valid for estimation of LER and its derivatve indices.
... The dead leaves which drops to the ground add up to the leaf litter, which break down to form organic matter, and are released back to the soil as nutrients. The diverse crops stands are expected to improve resilience and increase overall yield compared to the corresponding monoculture [40]; [41]. ...
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Maize (Zea mays)-soybean (Glycine max) intercropping is popular in many developing countries because of its high land equivalent ratio (LER). However, very few studies have explored the reason of its high LER, and the relationships between light distribution and the variations in radiation use efficiency (RUE) and LER in different intercropping arrangements. In this study, we conducted field experiments with different row arrangements of intercropping patterns from 2013 to 2015. The three different strip intercropping (SI) row arrangements were 0.2 m, 0.4 m, and 0.7 m (SI1); 0.4 m, 0.4 m, and 0.6 m (SI2); and 0.6 m, 0.4 m, and 0.5 m (SI3) for maize row distance, soybean row distance, distance between maize and soybean rows, respectively. The results showed that, as compared to single row intercropping, the strip intercropping increased the PAR at top of soybean canopy by 1.42 (SI3), 1.67 (SI2) and 1.93 (SI1) times, and increased the PAR at maize leaves close to the ear by 1.02 (SI3), 1.11 (SI2) and 1.12 (SI1) times. Moreover, the increased PAR at crucial positions in SI potentially improved the photosynthetic rate (Pn) for maize leaves close to the ear and radiation use efficiency (RUE) of maize by 1.08 and 1.09 times (averaged by SI1, SI2 and SI3), respectively, and improved the Pn of leaves at top of canopy and intercepted PAR of soybean by 1.75 and 1.36 times (averaged by SI1, SI2 and SI3), respectively. Compared to monoculture, SI also enhanced the RUE of intercropped maize (by 1.18 times) and soybean (by 1.51 times), which compensated for the partial yield loss caused by decreased crop intercepted PAR. Overall, in SI, intercropped maize achieved 90% of the monoculture yield, and intercropped soybean achieved 47% of the monoculture yield. With the expanding gap width for growing soybeans under a fixed bandwidth (2 m), the increasing intercepted PAR of intercropped soybean alleviated the interspecific competition disadvantage of soybean, while the reduction of maize row width decreased the dominant interspecific competition of maize. By adjusting the distances, we suggest that the optimal gap width for growing soybeans is 1.6 m-1.8 m, and the best maize row distance is 0.4 m. The SI2 achieved LER of 1.42, representing the leading level in the world.
Chapter
Multicropping describes a diverse array of different systems that incorporate more than one crop in the field at the same time. These may be as simple as alternating strips of two crops in temperate zone fields or as complex as mixing more than a dozen crops together in fields in humid tropical zones. Highly diverse systems are commonly found on subsistence farms in lower latitudes where growing season is long and rainfall is abundant. They often require high labor input and demonstrate impressive levels of biodiversity and efficient nutrient, light, and water use with appropriate technologies. Mixed farming systems incorporate domestic animal production as integral to design of strategies to provide food and other needs for small farmers. Improved multicropping systems have unexplored potentials for increasing food production using environmentally sound methods, and these may be instrumental to improved nutrition and poverty alleviation in much of the developing world.
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Field experiments were conducted to characterize intercropping advantages in groundnut-fingermillet intercrop in relation to crop combination ratios, soil moisture and nitrogen (N) availability. Three intercrops in 1 : 2, 1 : 1 and 2 : 1 alternating rows of groundnut and fingermillet were examined for their growth and yield in comparison with their respective sole crops in 1996. The effect of well watered (W) and water stressed (D) conditions on the intercropping advantage was also examined for 1 : 1 intercrops in 1995 and 1996. Fertilizer N was applied at the rate of 20 kg ha-1 in 1995 and 50 kg ha-1 in 1996. The total above-ground biomass (DM) and its land equivalent ratio (LER) were highest in the 1 : 1 combination ratio. The DM production of intercropped fingermillet was higher in 1996 with higher N than in 1995 with low N application, while those of groundnut were similar in both years. The intercropped groundnut exhibited significantly higher DM production after the fingermillet harvest. The LERs in grain yield were higher in 1996 (1.43 under W and 1.45 under D), than in 1995 (0.87 under W and 1.22 under D). Also, LERs were consistently higher under D than W conditions. Water stress severely reduced the leaf area index (LAI) of fingermillet at a low N, especially in the later stages, whereas higher N alleviated the water stress effect. A close linear relationship was observed between LAI and leaf area (LA) per unit leaf N both for groundnut and fingermillet, with intercrops producing larger LA per unit leaf N than sole crops. Intercropping maintained higher ability in leaf net photosynthesis and transpiration of groundnut up to later stages, and significantly reduced water evaporation from the soil surface under the canopy than sole cropping of fingermillet. These results suggest that three processes associated with the intercropping yield advantages in the groundnut-fingermillet intercrop ; 1) higher leaf photo-synthesis and vigorous growth of groundnut after the fingermillet harvest, 2) higher LA production per unit N and 3) efficient water use. In conclusion, interspecific shading was considered to be the key mechanism associated with these processes, leading to the intercropping advantages. The degree of the interspecific shade and its effect on growth and yield depended on the available soil N and water.