3. Intercropping improves land-use efficiency.
CIAT Report, Cali, Colombia, 1989, pp. 15-17
Associated cropping reduces the chances of the farmer losing everything to pests, drought, or diseases. If one crop fails, the other may survive and will compensate for the loss or provide at least some food or earnings. Another advantage of intercropping is that it often makes more efficient and intensive use of available labour. Most researchers agree that unless socioeconomic conditions change radically during the next few years, small farmers will continue to practice intercropping.
One of the most common association used by small farmers in the tropics are systems involving maize and cassava. The farmers have discovered by trial and error that if they lose their maize they can fall back on their cassava. Cassava is well known as a hardy crop that can withstand very stressful conditions.
CIAT Cassava Program in conjunction with Colombia's national program were conducting research designed to make this practice better.
For farmers in the northern coastal plains of Colombia the most common problem is lack of land, caused by a combination of rural population growth and the traditional pattern of land inheritance. Constant division of available land has left north coast farmers with an average of 5-6 ha, about 50% of which is maintained in natural pastures or left fallow to restore soil fertility. With natural or chemical nutrients difficult to obtain, they must make as efficient use of the land as possible.
It was interesting to find that the local maize varieties competed more aggressively with cassava than the improved varieties. Grown under farmers' conditions, cassava yielded an average of 16 t/ha of roots in sole cropping and 11 t/ha in association with the improved varieties of maize. Yet, when cassava was grown with traditional maize varieties, it only yielded 8.8 t/ha. Improved maize varieties, on the other hand, yielded 2.6 t/ha in sole cropping and 2.0 t/ha in association.
Traditional varieties yielded 1.5 t/ha in sole cropping and 1.3 t/ha in association. This indicates that the improved maize varieties not only yield higher in monocropping but also in intercropping, while cassava intercropped with these improved maize varieties also yielded more.
The intercrop produces a land-equivalent ratio of 1.4. That is, 40% more land would be necessary to obtain the same production as from sole cropping.
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Africa, Nigeria, semi-humid region, savanna zone, maize variety, legumes, agroforestry
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