Other names of multi storied cropping are multi-layer cropping and multi-tire cropping. It is one kind of intercropping. Growing plants of different height in the same field at the same time is termed as multi storied cropping.
It is mostly practiced in orchards and plantation crops for maximum use of solar energy even under high planting density. It is the practice of different crops of varying heights, rooting pattern and duration to cultivate together.
The objective of this system of cropping is to utilize the vertical space more effectively.
In this system, the tallest components have foliage of strong light and high evaporative demand and shorter components with foliage requiring shade and or relatively high humidity.
Benefits of multistoried cropping system:-
- Income per unit area increase substantially with this system and ensures a more evenly distribution of income and employment throughout the year from harvesting different crops in different season.
- Minimize risks of crop yield loss. This system enables a steady supply of farm products the whole round the year.
- Generates jobs & provides better labour use pattern.
- Helps to maximize land use. All growing space is used as crop fit together vertically (tall, medium & short), horizontally (all planting spots occupied) and underground (deep-rooted and shallow-rooted plants).
- Reduces the impacts of hazards like high intensity rainfall, soil erosion and landslides.
- Efficiently utilizes the soil moisture at different depths of soil and catch solar energy at different heights.
- Natural resources are utilized properly. Efficiency in water use. Enrich in fertility status of soils.
- Improve the soil characteristics and adds organic matter to soil
- Effective utilization of leaching materials.
- It helps in effective weed control.
- It provides partial guaranty against market glut of single commodity. Efficient cultivation of a range of products is possible. Crops can be grown according to market preference.
- Higher production as the cultivation process is accelerated.
- Better and more consistent crop quality.
- Maintain an ecological balance.
- A mix of tree and plant species that could grow well in the multi-storied system.
- There are several secondary outputs from the system.
- Increase biodiversity which reduces pest and disease pressure.
- Provide micro-climate conditions that benefit crops underneath.
Examples of some multistoried croppings
Mango+ guava+ cowpea, Coconut+ black pepper+ cacao+ pineapple, Coconut+ jackfruit+ coffee+ papaya+ pineapple, Coconut+ papaya+ pineapple, Coconut+ coffee+ papaya+ pineapple, Coconut+ coffee+ black pepper, Coconut+ banana+ coffee, Coconut+ banana+ black pepper, Coconut+ papaya+ pineapple+ peanut, Coconut+ banana+ Taro, Coconut+ banana+ ginger, Coconut+ banana + pineapple, Coconut+ banana, Coconut+ pasture, Mango+ pineapple, Mango+ papaya+ pineapple, Mango +pasture, Areca nut+ betel vine+ papaya+ pigeon pea+ pineapple+ ginger, Pigeon pea+ sesame+ ground nut, Maize+ green gram+ groundnut, Pigeon pea+ upland rice + black gram, Amaranth+ lady’s finger+ colocasia, Spinach+ radish+ onion, Brinjal+ lady’s finger+ basella+ colocasia, Eucalyptus+ papaya+ berseem, Sugarcane+ potato+ onion(seed crop), Sugarcane + mustard+ potato
Shade tolerant crops under Multistoried system
Pineapple-Ananas comosus, Peppers-Capsicum spp., Sweet taro-Colocasia esculenta, Turmeric-Curcuma domestica, Flowers-Anthurium spp. ,Sweet potato-Ipomea batatas, Dryland taro-Xanthosoma sagittifolium, Ginger-Zingiber officinale, Musroom culture etc.
Steps to implement multistoried system in Agroforestry
Plant nurse trees: -
Fast-growing nitrogen fixing trees can be planted first to improve site conditions. Nurse trees are valued for shade and soil enrichment throughout the life of the crop. These nurse tree species should have the following characteristics - a) they cast a light shade or can be pruned to adjust shade b) nitrogen fixing c) produce timber, fodder, or other useful products d) sun loving e) adapted to local climates and soils f) fast growing
Intercrop annual crops: Choose an intercrop each planting season that is adapted to current sun or shade conditions.
Plant shade tolerant tree:
After one year or when the nurse trees provide enough shade, plant shade tolerant trees. Plant them 3-4 m apart or at the recommended spacing for the tree crop. Plant them 1-2 m away from the nurse trees. Fertilize, prune and weed as for other crops.
Prune nurse trees:
When nurse trees provide too much shade, cut branches and use the leaves as mulch.
Watch for adjacent trees with canopies starting to grow into each other. Also watch out for sun loving trees to make space for healthy or higher value trees. Be careful not to damage other trees when cutting. The remaining trees will grow faster.
Enrich with other crops: Plant shade tolerant crops for food and cash income.
Constraints in adopting multistoried cropping
- Drought conditions
- Lack of funds
- Lack of technical knowledge of cropping systems
- Timely availability of inputs
- Pest and disease incidents
- Lack of irrigation facilities
- Lack of labour availability.
This is an innovation of farmers of Makrao village, Almora, Uttarakhand. Multilayer vegetable cultivation in the Makrao village is an excellent example of judicious utilization of soil and water resources to take full advantage of limited land resources. Access to markets has been one of the major drivers of this innovation in farming practice.
This village is considered to be one of the ideal villages among the agriculturists in the region. Soil moisture and nutrient dynamics in this vegetable farming technique should be of interest to further investigation.
About a century ago, the village elderly persons collectively developed a small piece of agricultural land of about 5 hectares area for vegetable cultivation. While earlier, the land was irrigated through locally developed gools, well-structured water storage tanks and irrigation canals have now been constructed in this land with the help of government departments/ schemes.
Initially, vegetables such as carrot, potato, colocasia, green leafy vegetables and spices e.g. spinach, coriander, turmeric, garlic etc. were cultivated in this land as sole plantation.
In lands where colocasia was being grown conventionally as a sole crop, there was no possibility of reaping another crop harvest. The crop duration of colocasia is about 7-8 months, starting from the month of January, each year. Also the seed tubers of colocasia took 60-80 days to emerge above the ground.
Realizing that the top soil layer in the colocasia fields remain unused for a significant period of time due to late germination of the colocasia crop, farmers explored ways of utilizing the resource in a better way for improved production.
Combination of colocasia and green leafy vegetables: -
Farmers first started cultivating short duration green leafy vegetables on the top soil layer, until the sown crop (i.e. colocasia) germinated and emerged above the ground. Since colocasia is late germinating crop and completes its crop cycle in 7-8 months, farmers made further experiments in the colocasia fields.
Combination of colocasia, potato and green leafy vegetables: -
They shifted colocasia’s sowing depth from 10-20 cm to 20-30 cm and vertical space in the soil for sowing potato simultaneously above the colocasia. Eventually, farmers came up with a multilayer seed sowing technique in which seeds/seed-tubers of three different vegetable crops i.e. colocasia, potato and green leafy vegetables are now being sown in the deep, middle and top soil layers, respectively and simultaneously in a single crop field.
By using this new technique, popularly called as multilayer cultivation, farmers tried to maximize production from a unit area. Following this improved cultivation practice; farmers first sow colocasia during the month of January in comparatively large vegetable crop fields. Potato is shown above the colocasia at a soil depth of 10-15 cm and finally in the top soil layer (0-5cm) they sow seeds of green leafy vegetables.
The top soil layer sown crop (i.e. green leafy vegetables) germinates immediately and is harvested within 20-25 days by the end of February. Immediately, after the harvest of green leafy vegetables, the second layer crop (i.e. potato) emerges above the ground.
It is weeded twice and harvested in May. Subsequent to the harvest of potato, colocasia emerges on the soil surface and is harvested in October.
Seasonal vegetables cultivation: - In the month of November and December the colocasia crop fields are utilized to grow onion saplings, which have a high demand as a winter season planting material in the entire region. In rest of the vegetable crop fields, which are generally small and not cultivated through multilayer seed sowing technique, a diverse range of seasonal vegetables are grown all over the year. The vegetable either sold directly by the farmers in the nearby markets or purchased by a village member who then sells these vegetables in the markets.
Management of multi-storied crops by farmers of Makrao: -
Growing three crops in place of one naturally results in competition among crops for water and nutrients. However in the present case of multilayer farming technique practiced in the Makrao village, both of these competitions are well managed by the farmers.
Since, water is drawn from natural spring and stored in cement tanks; there is no scarcity of water for land irrigation even in the summer season. Moreover, farmers (based on a general consensus) have developed a rational system of land irrigation. In this system, a whole day is allotted to a farmer to irrigate the land using the water stored in tanks.
Through this system, each farmer gets his chance to irrigate the land at regular intervals. To overcome the problem of nutrient competition in the multilayer crop fields, farmers apply a huge quantity of farmyard manure during the month of December (before sowing seeds/seed tubers of colocasia, potato and green leafy vegetables) in each of such crop field.
The land cultivated through multilayer technique is generally close to the farmer’s household and therefore there is no difficulty in manuring these crop fields. Most importantly, the availability of enough water and farm yard manure has made this multilayer farming system viable in the Makrao village.
Crops yield improvement: -
As three vegetable crops are now being cultivated simultaneously, the new technique has resulted in increased production of vegetables per unit of land in the colocasia fields.
The input-output ratio (in terms of money) of this system was computed to 1:8, which is significantly higher than the input output ratio reported for potato (1:2), tomato (1:5), capsicum (1:2) and pea (1:2) cultivation as sole plantation in the other villages of the region.
A Success story of Multistoried cropping
Bastar district is situated southern part of Chhattisgarh state. Most of the area (851867 ha) is covered by forest. Rich forest of Bastar has enforced farmers to develop agro-silvi horticultural pattern of farming. In the district, 66 percent of population is dominated by tribals.
Local beverages like Sulfi, Mahua, Landa are taken by tribal and hunting is one of the tradition.
Dryland horticulture has tremendous scope for utilization of these land and upland soils by cultivation of suitable agri-horti crops. Local KVK introduced multi layer horticulture based cropping system in the village Malgaon during 2002-2003.
Total area selected initially in the village was 20 ha of upland and number of farmers selected under area was 10. Field crops such as rice, maize, pulses cultivated with horticultural crops like fruits and vegetables round the year and created irrigation facilities through KVK +convergence programme (SJGSY) for these crops.
Further, KVK organized awareness campaign, training courses, exposure visits, demonstrations and other extension activities for better understanding of technology.
Shri Tulsiram from Malgaon adopted multi-layer horticulture-based cropping system in his 2.5 ha of upland. He cultivated vegetables round the year in kharif, rabi, zaid and obtained around Rs. 300000 as net income as against Rs. 15000 from the same land by mono-cropping with traditional technologies.
Consequent years, he strengthen his farm by standardizing various crop combinations to achieve high returns from a piece of land without affecting soil health under the technical guidance of KVK at regular intervals. His hard work with innovative ideas, Shri Tulsiram received progressive farmers award by IARI, New Delhi and Honourable Chief Minister, Chhattisgarh.
He is now providing employment to local villagers (2500-3000 man days/year) in his farm. Shri Tulsiram became a role model farmer for many farmers. Multi-layer horti-based cropping system horizontally spread to nearby 8-10 villages through the principle of seeing is believing and learning by doing.
Majority of farmers of our country, are small and marginal farmers. They generally cultivate seasonal crops. Hence, after a certain time interval, they have the scope to earn. Vagaries of weather many times spoil that scope of earning which aggravates their poverty.
In this connection, multistoried cropping system opens a new door to earn whole round the year as well as there is less risk of complete crop failure. The technology is a potential technology, because, it uses natural resources properly.
Considering the importance of this technology, the public and private extension agencies should accelerate the activities to promote this technology as well as various impersonal sources of information (i.e. radio, T.V.; newspaper, internet, book, magazine etc.) are to be used to disseminate of this technology properly.
Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural Extension,
College of Agriculture (BCKV),
Agricultural Farm, Kalna Road, Burdwan, West Bengal,