Intercropping, as one of the multiple cropping systems, has been practiced by farmers for many years in various ways and most areas, and has played a very important role in India. There is more cooperation in nature than competition. Cooperation is exemplified by mutually beneficial relationships that occur between species within communities.. When two or more crops are growing together, each should have adequate space to maximize cooperation and reduce competition between them. This is accomplished by the following factors namely: spatial arrangement, plant density, maturity dates of the crops grown, plant architecture.

The objectives of Intercropping Systems are: 

Intercropping was originally practiced as an insurance against crop failure under rainfall conditions. At present the main objective of intercropping is higher productivity per unit area in addition to stability in production. Intercropping systems utilizes resources sufficiently and their productivity is increased. Main objectives of intercropping are:

  1. Insurance against total crop failure under aberrant weather conditions or pest epidemics.
  2. Increase in total productivity per unit land area.
  3. Judicious utilization of resources such as land labour and inputs.

Types of Inter-Cropping:

  1. Mixed intercroppingGrowing two or more crops simultaneously with no distinct row    arrangement.
  2. Row intercroppingGrowing two or more crops simultaneously where one or more crops are planted in rows.                               
  3. Strip Inter-cropping Growing two or more crops simultaneously in different strips  wide  enough to permit independent cultivation but narrow enough for the crops to interact ergonomically.  
  4. Relay inter-croppingGrowing two or more crops simultaneously during part of the life cycle of each. A second crop is planted after the first crop has reached its reproductive stage but before it is ready for harvest.

Inter-cropping may be divided into the following four groups.

  1. Parallel CroppingUnder this cropping two crops are selected which have different growth habits and have a zero competition between each other and both of them express their full yield potential. E.g. 1) Green gram or black gram with maize. 2) Green gram or soybean with cotton.
  2. Companion CroppingIn companion cropping the yield of one crop is not affected by other, In other words, the yield of both the crops is equal to their pure crops. That the standard plant population of both crops is maintained. E.g.1) Mustard, wheat, potato, etc. with sugarcane 2) Wheat, radish, cabbage, sugar beat etc., with potato.
  3. Multi-storied Cropping or Multi-tire cropping: Growing plants of different height in the same field at the same time is termed as multi-storeyed cropping. It is mostly practiced in orchards and plantation crops for maximum use of solar energy even under high planting   density.e.g. 1)Eucalyptus+Papaya+Berseem 2) Sometimes it is practiced under field crops such as Sugarcane + Potato + Onion. 3)Sugarcane+Mustard+Potato. 4) Coconut + Pineapple + Turmeric/Ginger.
  4. Multi-tire Cropping: Inter-cropping is mostly prevalent in plantation crops like coconut and areca nut. The practice different crops of varying heights, rooting pattern and duration are called multi-tire cropping. The objective of this system of cropping is to utilize the vertical space more effectively. In this system, the tallest components have foliage tolerant of strong light and high evaporative demand and the shorter component(s) with foliage requiring shade and or relatively high humidity. E.g. Coconut + black pepper + cocoa + pineapple. In this system, coconut is planted with a spacing of 7.5m Rooted cutting of black pepper are planted on either side of coconut about 75 cm away from the base. On the coconut trunk at a height of about one meter from the ground level, the vines of pepper are trailed. A single row of cacao is planted at the centre of space between coconut rows. Pineapple is planted in the inter-space. Coconut growing to a height of more then 10 m. Cacao with its pruned canopy of about 2.5 m height and pineapple growing o about 1 m. height form the first and ground floors, respectively.

For successful intercropping, there are certain important requirements:

  1. The time of peak nutrient demands of component crops should not overleap intercropping system.
  2.  Competition for light should be minimum among the component crops.
  3.  Complementary should exist between the component crops.
  4. The differences in maturity of component crops should be at least 30 days.

Intercropping in fruit crops:

1. Fruits crops as intercrop:

Short-term and early bearing fruit crops as an intercrop, due consideration is essential in the selection of a particular fruit. This is essential because the roots of such trees may start competing with the roots of main fruit trees for nutrients and moisture.The filler trees, unless removed at appropriate time when primary fruit trees start giving economic crop, may create problems of low orchard efficiency.Keeping this point in mind, it is apparent that wherever pineapple and strawberry can be grown, these may serve as an ideal intercrop.Wherever frost hazard is less, an intercrop of papaya can be taken profitably in a mango orchard.Likewise, in the northern plains of India, 'Sharbati' peach can be an excellent intercrop for mango orchard. Phalsa and guava could also be included in the early stages of growth of the trees, provided these are maintained properly by adequate pruning and removal at proper time.During the first few years of their non- bearing life and until the trees have grown to a big size, the vacant land in between the mango trees can be profitably utilized for the cultivation of harmless types of intercrops like fodders, farm crops, vegetables and pulses preferably of leguminous type.Intercropping should always be judicious and needs of the trees receive primary consideration, otherwise the practice may prove extremely harmful. Intercropping helps to keep the weeds under check, which otherwise would rob the orchard soil of plant nutrients and moisture.

While intercropping, the trees should be providing with suitably wide basins and an independent irrigation system. They should also be given regular hoeings and weedings. When the trees grow up to big size, as it usually happens after their 10-12 years of life. Then discontinue the intercropping as at that stage it would impair with their normal growth and fruiting. In order to replenish the organic matter content of the soil, green manuring with leguminous crops like guara, hemp and senji may be carried out, depending upon the need of the soil. Instead of intercropping, temporary quick growing fruit trees can be grown as fillers which are removed when the mango trees assume big size. Papaya, peach, plum, guava and phalsa are grown as fillers.Mango orchard provides an opportunity for utilizing the land space to its maximum during initial years (up to 8-10 years) of establishment. Due to wider spacing and developing root patterns, the large unutilized inter-space of about 60 to 70 % can be exploited for growing inter and mixed crops successfully. Selection of intercrops depends on agro climatic region, marketing facilities, levels of inputs and other local considerations.

The partial shade loving crops like pineapple, ginger, turmeric, etc. can be grown in fully grown orchards. In addition to field crops, some short duration, less exhaustive and dwarf type inter-fillers like papaya, moringa, curry leaf, etc. can also be grown till these do not interfere with the main mango crop. Inter-cropping can be taken up till the mango trees attain suitable height and develop canopy (at 5-6 years of age). Whatever be the crops selected intercrop and main crop must receive separately their independent requirement of fertilizer and irrigation. Inter cropping result in increased humidity and vegetation in orchard that may promote infestation of pest and diseases in greater intensity than under clean cultivation.In general, an intercrop must be planted well away from the mango plants and their requirements for moisture and nutrients must be met separately and must not clash with those for mango. With the increasing age of mango plants, the area under intercrops should be progressively decreased to avoid competition. One must vigilant to adopt timely and effective control measures against pests and diseases affecting the intercrop.

Example of fruit crops as intercrops:

Litchi based intercropping system:

Litchi is planted at the equidistance of 10 meters between row and plant leaving enough area of unutilized land. Management of young orchard is essential to accelerate growth of the young plant in order to minimize juvenile non bearing period. In order to accelerate the adaptation of production technologies, growing of intercropping shade tolerant tuber crops in litchi orchard has been found more remunerative. At RAU pus atria was conducted by the department of forestry under AICRP on intercropping of some horticulture crop in 6 year old litchi orchard. Intercropping of litchi orchard  enhance the B:C ratio  as compared to litchi alone (1.60) and it was  in the decreasing order of litchi + turmeric , ginger , arbi, and sweet potato.           

Table: Intercropping tuber crops in litchi orchard (mean of two years)


Yield (t/ha)

Cost of cultivation

Net return(Rs/ha)

B:C Ratio

Sweet potato(30:20:30 NPK kg / ha)





Sweet potato (60:40:60 NPK  kg/ ha)





Amorphophallus (40:30:40) NPK kg / ha)





Amorphophallus( 80:60:80 NPK kg / ha)





Callocasia (40:30:40 NPK kg / ha)





Callocasia( 80:60:80 NPK kg / ha)





Turmeric (40:30:40 NPK kg / ha)





Turmeric (80:60:80 NPK kg / ha)










Mango based intercropping system:

Three root tuber crop ,viz. sweet potato , elephant foot yam and cassava were inter cropped in 12 year old mango orchard with two level fertilizer , i.e. full and half dose of  recommended NPK. among all intercrop, elephant foot yam with full recommended dose of 80:60:80 kg NPK /ha. gave highest corn yield 48.0t/ ha with net return of 2.29 lack/ha and in term of net return / reinvested (2.12) table 4



Yield t/ha

Cost of cultivation Rs/ha

Net return Rs/ha



elephant foot yam






elephant foot yam






Sweet potato






Sweet potato


















Banana based intercropping system:

Farmer used to intercrop elephant foot yam in banana orchard and get additional income. Some farmers also grow elephant foot yam, green gram and maize in banana orchard. 

Coconut based intercropping system:

Coconut garden with wider spacing of 7.5 x 7.5m utilized only 12.57 m2/ palm (22.24%) and 50% of solar radiation. Root and  tuber crop such as elephant foot yam, greater yam, cassava, spice crop like turmeric ,ginger and other , vegetable and meditional and aromatic plants can profitably grown both at the young and old stages. 

Aonla based intercropping system:

Inter cropping of horticulture crop like turmeric, ginger, arbi were studied in 10 years old aonla orchard. The system was found to be remenurative as the B: C ratio among different agri- horticultural system varied from 3.40 (aonla + ginger) to 5.92 (aonla + turmeric) which were higher than that of pure stand .


Yield of intercrop(q/ha)

Yield of aonla (kg/tree)

Net return(/ ha)







Aonla+ turmeric





Aonla + ginger





Aonla + Arbi





2. Vegetable as intercrop:

In an intercrop system between beans and peas, there has been increased yield presumably by the transfer of biologically fixed nitrogen from the roots of legume to the root zone of the companion crop (Akyempong et al, 1999, Gold et al, 1999, Ndungu et al, 2003, Reddy and Willey, 1981; Nanecke et al, 1989). This biologically fixed nitrogen can reduce the need for N from commercial fertilizers (Lima and Lopez1979, Hiesbick, 1980). Vegetables such as cabbage, cucumber, radish, snap bean, and broccoli are intercropped into double rows of field maize planted on raised soil beds. Intercropping two vegetables with different architecture and nutritional value such as beet and okra, pepper and onion has been practised in tropical Asia (Okigbo, 1979). In some areas of Africa, vegetable cropping systems such as maize and cowpea often are practiced (Mead and Willey, 1980). Some factors that will influence or not whether two crops can be successfully intercropped include plant height (Spiejer et al 2006), the size of the leaves and the orientation and distribution of these leaves in the plant canopy (Sogbedji et al 2006). These variables affect the amount of sunlight that passes through the canopies (Grossman and Quales, 1993), which could influence the photosynthetic rates of the leaves within the canopy.


  Prof. R.K. Bhoyar1, Prof. Sevak A. Dhenge2 and Prof. Kedar V. Swami3

1  Gode College of Agriculture, Deulgoan raja , Buldhana.

                   2 and 3.Late R.G. Deshmukh College of Agriculture Tiwsa, Dist.- AMRAVATI, State- MAHARASHTRA. 444903

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