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The Role of Intercropping by Using Organic Inputs to Increase the Quality and Sustainable Food Production

1. Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1.Overview and Background

With the increasing demand for quality food production, the researchers in Agriculture have been designing the concept of intercropping. In intercropping, two or more crops are being harvested together (He et al., 2019). While analyzing the role of intercropping in the effectiveness of the agricultural field, the role of intercropping needs to be discussed from the point of view of the sustainability of food production.

It has been seen that the incorporation of intercropping can incorporate the diversity of the components absorbed by the crops to increase the fertility of the soil organically. The background for the research is based on the development of the population that is increasing the pressure of the agricultural field due to heavy productions leading towards the use of the harmful chemical inputs in the field (Sobhanardakani, 2018). How the organic input in the intercropping can enhance the sustainability of the food and the quality of the foods can be increased.

1.2. Research Problem

The research is based on some of the issues that targets to address for mitigation. It has been seen that organic input in the fields can increase the costing of agriculture. Moreover, the production is limited with organic inputs in the field. In this regard, the incorporation of inorganic inputs has been used which is causing the consumption of some harmful chemicals and reduced fertility of the soil.

Incorporation of the intercropping sometimes causes “reduced efficiency” in the cropping and may increase the cost of labour operations and maintenance charge. The research under discussion will have to face the problem for the development of the “sustainable indemnification” where the major discussion will cover the analysis of plant physiology and ecology (Duan et al., 2021). Therefore the major problem of the research which will be targeted for the mitigation is the proper management of the intercropping with the help of the organic cropping which can help in the development of the sustainable food production.

1.3. Research Rationale

The research that has been taken into consideration will help in the understanding of the importance of intercropping in the first place. It has also been seen that the incorporation of the intercropping from the context of the organic input will help to develop the strategies for the increasing approach of sustainable food production. The research will analyze the ecological advances such as the pest avoidance and the “above- and below-ground systems” which can help in the idea development about the role of the intercropping in the development of the sustainable food production (Wang et al., 2017). The research will further address the research problem of identification of the wilder benefits of the intercropping systems. For the matter of the inputs in the intercropping, the main role of the research under discussion will help to develop the idea about the role of the organic with the insight of the increasing production for the sustainable foods. The research is thus able to identify the scopes and the future perspectives of intercropping using the organic farming methods.

1.4. Research Aim and Objectives


Researchers have also seen that intercropping has incorporated diversity as well as increased the fertility of the soil organically. The main aim of the research on “intercropping by using organic inputs to increase the quality and sustainable food production” is to find out the position of intercropping using organic methods that help in achieving sustainability in the production of food and satisfying the need for food.


  • To find out the importance of achieving sustainability in the production of food in future
  • To find out the constraints that affect the future sustainability in global food production
  • To find out how the implementation of intercropping has been used at the global level of farming
  • To evaluate intercropping by using organic farming in achieving sustainability in food production at a global level and increasing the quality of the produced food.

1.5. Research Questions

  • What is the importance of achieving sustainability in food production in the future?
  • What are the constraints that are acting against the achievement of future sustainability in food production at a global level?
  • What are the consequences that mankind may face if sustainability in global food production is not achieved?
  • What are the scopes in identifying and implementing methods of organic intercropping farming, used at the global level of farming?
  • What are the roles of intercropping farming that help in achieving sustainable production of food at a global level?

1.6. Brief Literature Review

The study of Stefan, Engbersen, and Schöb, (2021) has shown that the process of intercropping in agriculture as a method of farming has become a range of research interest in the field of agricultural ecology as well as environmental science. Research done by Maitra et al., (2021) has shown that opportunities for interdisciplinary synthesis, the method of combining diverse information on the aspect of intercropping, have given potential results. According to the research of Ghotbe Sharif, Mostafavi and Asadi, (2021) have shown that the population of the world is increasing rapidly so to mitigate the global demand for food that would be rising in the upcoming decades an appropriate method of food production is necessary intercropping is one such method with the help of which the amount of food that is required can be produced as well as the fertility of the soil would not be distorted. The study done by Alizadeh Sarabi and Hazrat, (2021) has shown me the results that the methods of intercropping help in attaining nutrients to the crop. This is done by the process of nitrogen fixation that provides nitrogen to the neighboring species.

According to the research done by Wangiyana and Jaya, (2021) action, the use of intercropping in agriculture applications of fertilizers has also decreased because intercropping contributes to the fertility of the soil. Research done by Stefan, Engbersen and Schöb, (2021) has shown that intercropping is also very much useful in the management of weeds, as beneficial plants occupy the vacant space that is in between the row that is formed by intercropping. According to the research of Martin-Guay et al., (2018) as shown that organic farming is widely accepted by farmers across the globe. This method of farming is very much useful for reducing the level of pollution that arises from the chemicals that are used to increase the quantity of the produce.

The studies conducted by Mousa and Ueno, (2019 ) have also shown that intercropping helps in increasing the use of biofertilizers and green manure as well as methods of biological pest control. As the research done by Sharma, (2017) has shown that intercropping prevent the erosion of soil and the top layer of the crust. This is due to how the crops are planted does decrease the erosion with the help of holding the soil with the help of their roots. Research is done by Schulz et al ., (2021 ) showed that intercropping is a method that helps in enhancing the biodiversity as well as ecological stability of a region. More crops are produced in agricultural lands; it is better for the environment as well as the soil in the agricultural fields.

1.7. Methodology

While doing the research, the choice of research philosophy by the researcher was that of interpretivism. Interpretivism is well-suited for qualitative research methodology. Since positivism is used for both qualitative and quantitative data interpretivism research philosophy has been used while conducting this research (Alharahsheh and Pius, 2020). For research approach, inductive research approach has been used while doing qualitative analysis both inductive as well as detective approaches can be used but deductive approach only helps in the development of hypothesis from a given set of data inductive approach helps in answering the questions of the research that are created by the researcher while doing qualitative research. For that reason, an inductive research approach has been selected. While conducting the research the researcher has used both primary as well as secondary sources of data. The primary data has been collected from the people involved in intercropping and in the field of food production, the secondary data is mainly collected from journals, articles, and peer-reviewed journals. The Researcher has used a qualitative method in the analysis of the data that was collected. The qualitative method is a convenient non-probabilistic method of sampling that gives the expected result that the researchers want (Valtakoski, 2019).

1.8. Ethical Approach

While the primary data was collected from participants involved in the field of food production and intercropping methods, consideration regarding privacy as well as confidentiality has been maintained. The secondary data that was collected from open access journals sources Google scholar explorer JSTOR, no data was hampered and was not taken without the permission of the author.

1.9. Limitation of the Study

The researcher, while researching the role of intercropping by using organic inputs to increase the quality and sustainable food production, has used both the primary and the secondary data, as due to the lack of funding the researcher used both the methods. If the researcher had the correct amount of funding the research could be done with the help of primary data collection thus providing better results of the research. The researcher could not cover the areas regarding the problems regarding intercropping and other methods that can be used instead of intercropping for sustainable food production. This is considered to be a gap in the research.

1.10. Expected Outcome

From the above discussion it has been seen that qualitative method used in analyzing the set of both primary and secondary data using the inductive approach that gave answers to the qualitative questions using the interpretivism philosophy, the intercropping method is one of the most useful ways to increase sustainable food production and also meeting the global demand of food. From the literature review given above it has been seen that intercropping methods also help in resolving environmental issues as well as increasing soil fertility and decreasing soil erosion.

2. Chapter 2: Literature Review

2.1. Concept of Intercropping

Concept of intercropping

Figure 1: Concept of intercropping. How intercropping is done

(Source: Maitra et al., 2021).

As per the study of Langenberger et al.,(2017) it has been shown that in the method of intercropping two or more crops can be simultaneously grown in the same field. With the help of intercropping methods, both cash crops, as well as cover crops, can be grown without any issues that arise from the fertility of the soil. The practice of intercropping has gained attention around the whole world. The practice of intercropping is also very useful in regards to the fertility of the soil and also the cycling of the nutrients present in the soil. The methods of intercropping also help in improving soil properties such as increasing organic matter, stabilizing soil aggregates, decreasing soil compaction, aerating the soil as well as improving the water balance in the soil.

Research done by Maitra et al., (2021) has shown that the method of intercropping is a traditional method of agriculture. In old times the process of intercropping was used without any specific knowledge. At present times farmers can generate good harvests with the help of modern machinery as well as scientific research that has been incorporated in the field of intercropping. The methods of intercropping are mainly used for using less space in the agricultural lands and producing more agricultural outputs, ensuring better yields in case of the poor returns from the main culture, and also providing nutrients to the nearby plants. The methods of intercropping are also used in the reduction of weeds, acting as a pest repellent, and decreasing soil pollution.

According to the research of Bedoussac et al., (2018) it has been shown that the system of intercropping engages in the “growing of several species in between each other during the same season”. The methods of intercropping are also an alternative to the methods of “monoculture farming” (Bedoussac et al., 2018). The practices in intercropping differ in various types in the form of a combination of plants, timing of sowing of plants, and the arrangement. With the methods of intercropping perennial crops can grow together with annual crops besides annual crops can grow together with perennial crops. This helps in the generation of more food produce thus sustaining the rising demand for the food.

As per the study done by Hohmann, Haug, and Messmer, (2021) it has been shown that the practice of intercropping is done by farmers around the world when two or more crops are planted close to each other. The common goal of the method of intercropping is to generate higher production of crops within a restricted area as well as make the use of the available resources in the existing areas, rather than using the whole agricultural land while producing a single type of crop. The examples of intercropping can be related to strategies of planting a deep-rooted crop with a shallow rooted crop, planting a tall crop with a short crop that needs limited shade. Intercropping can be of different types, the range of intercropping varies from mixed intercropping, row cropping, relay cropping, etc. The main benefits that are achieved from intercropping are that of the increase in infiltration, reduction in soil erosion, filtration of pollutants, etc.

2.2. Importance of Sustainability in Food Production

Importance of sustainable food production

Figure 2: Importance of sustainable food production

(Source: Cottrell et al., 2021).

The research of Cottrell et al., (2021) has shown that sustainability in the production of food has helped to maintain the equilibrium between the production of food and energy crop cultivation. The concept mainly focuses upon the usage of every ounce of resources that ranges from a single drop of water to a small piece of land, ensuring that the resources are saved for the future thus making food systems more sustainable. The methods that are applied in sustainable food production helps in the reduction of pollution that is caused due to the usage of chemical fertilizers. Sustainability regarding food production also incorporates the usage of natural fertilizer. The waste that is produced during sustainable farming also is taken back into the ecosystem of the farm so that the environment does not get polluted.

The research done by Sartison and Artmann, (2020) has shown that the process of sustainable framing focuses on the concept of producing food materials, plants, or animal products, causing minimal damage to the natural resources and the environment. The concept of sustainability in farming also incorporates the roles of social responsibilities such as working upon the living conditions of farmers as well as the workers and the development of the rural communities. Sustainable farming also looks upon the measures regarding the health and safety of the consumer in regards to both the present and future times. As the demand for global food requirements is increasing day by day due to the increase in the global population, agriculturists and farmers are now taking steps to increase the supply of food products. The producers also need to keep in mind that as they are trying to increase the yield of the food products they should not hamper the environment that can be harmful to future generations. Sustainable farming is one of the methods with the help of which sustainability in food production can be attained without harming the environment and also sustaining socially and economically.

As per the study of Isaak and Lentz, (2020) it has been shown that sustainability in the production of food can be achieved from using sustainable farming that uses minimum resources thus giving the greater output of produce. Important factors such as economic viability, profitability are also directly integrated with the core concepts of environmental health, social and economic equity. The sustainability in food production is also based upon the above-mentioned factors. The sustainability in food production also focuses upon meeting the demand of the present generation as well as that of the future generation without having a deep environmental impact, thus using resources that can be again incorporated into the farming processes without generating waste. Sustainability in food production can be achieved by following the use of renewable energy sources, emphasizing environmental preservation, improving animal welfare, and generating produce of healthier food, putting emphasis upon sustainable communities, and also reducing the use of harmful fertilizers that can have a profound impact upon the soil for generations to come decreasing the natural fertility of the soil.

2.3. Impact of Intercropping on Global Agriculture

Impact of intercropping

Figure 3: Impact of intercropping

(Source: Mizik, 2021).

The study was done by Mizik, (2021) has shown that with the help of intercropping has helped farmers and agriculturists to increase the share of the profit. As in the process of intercropping, two types of crops are planted in restricted agricultural areas. The process of intercropping helps the farmers to achieve profit even if one crop fails to generate the required amount of profit that the farmer expected to gain from one set of crops. As per the study done by Li et al., (2020) it has shown that the planting of different species of plants in-between the rows helps in efficiently utilizing the soil thus generating the ergonomic use of the land. For example, the use of tropical grasses to cover up the companion crops also helps in increasing the conservation of agriculture thus contributing to a more secure and sustainable way of agriculture.

As the study by Martin-Guay et al .,(2018) has shown the methods of intercropping have been very much useful in the management of water in an inexpensive way thus mitigating the issues of water scarcity and also diminishing the demand for land and water. Due to global warming and climatic changes draughts are eminent in various parts of the world with the help of intercropping water use efficiency can be increased as the method of intercropping uses a limited amount of land and two sets of crops can be planted in a small amount land, thus increasing the yield of the crop production and also mitigating the huge amount of water that is required to water the crop fields.

According to the study by Beillouin, Ben-Ari and Makowski, (2019) have shown that the methods of intercropping also help to increase the fertility of the soil. It has been traditionally known that nitrogen-fixing legumes have always been considered as a variety that helps in improving soil fertility. The species of plants that help in increasing the fertility of the soils such as mung beans, Bambara groundnuts, cowpea, black gram if these species of crops are planted in the intercropping methods it can help in increasing the soil fertility naturally with the help of nitrogen fixation, this has a profound impact upon diminishing the use of the chemical fertilizers that has a profound impact the natural soil fertility thus generating more produce by natural methods of production.

The study by Laroche et al., (2019) has shown that intercropping has been very much beneficial in terms of the prevention of soil erosion. As soil erodes the nutrients that are present in the soil are also lost and as a result crop generation is hampered. Thus sustainability is not achieved in the production of food and also not meeting the global demand of the food requirements, with the procedures that are attended from the methods of intercropping such as planting crops in between rows in alleys with the help of which the crop hold the soil with the help of their roots, thus mitigating the problem of soil erosion and producing more food products.

2.4.Concept of Organic Farming

As per the research of Leksono, (2017), it has been seen that the adoption of the chemical fertilizers and pesticides can cause ecological damage to the agricultural systems. That risk of using synthetic inputs has also incorporated the thought of contamination of the ground from the chemical fertilizers and pesticides that have been used in the agricultural methods. In this regard the adoption of organic farming can provide a “righteous and holistic” perspective by increasing the involvement of the growth and maturing of the crops in a natural way (Leksono, 2017). Use of the organic input in the farms can increase the fertility of the soil while emphasizing on the biodiversity by harbouring different benevolent microorganisms and maintaining the hormonal balance of the crops. However the research of Leksono, (2017) has further provided the data that more than 170 countries in the globe are targeting for the incorporation of the organic input in the agricultural field for the enhancement of the soil and food quality.

Organic farming system has helped in attainment of global sustainability based on the food quality and the production procedure. It has been seen that the research of Eyhorn et al., (2019) has provided the context of the improvement of the soil quality which enhances the biodiversity to reduce the pollution and contamination from the agricultural field. While providing the concept of organic farming the research of Eyhorn et al., (2019) has further described the weakness of organic farming which incorporates a very low rate in per unit production. In this regard it can be said that a lower rate in unit production cannot maintain the sustainability of the agricultural fields to provide the quality food to our larger number of consumers. It has been seen that the research of Eyhorn et al., (2019) has been targeted for the propaganda “feed the world” which cannot be possible with the conventional way of organic inputs in the agricultural fields. In this regard policy intervention for the sustainable food system can be incorporated for understanding the transformative systems and stimulating the market demand for the sustainable products (Eyhorn et al., 2019).

In figure 4, it has been described clearly that for the sustainable food production, the need of stability in the finance is needed which cannot be provided by the organic inputs for its difficulty in the collection and process fees.

Sustainable food system with the help of organic input

Figure 4: Sustainable food system with the help of organic input

(Source:, 2021)

It has been seen that the incorporation of organic input in the agricultural field can give shelter to many microorganisms which are beneficial for the development of the agricultural field (Muneret et al., 2018). In this regard the research of Muneret et al., (2018) has described that incorporation of organic farming can also promote the paste control by optimising the agrochemical inputs to reduce the ecological footprint. The research of Muneret et al., (2018) has further analysed that ecological intensification from the context of the paste control is highly witnessed in organic farming and has helped to lower the levels of the pathogen infestation.

The research of Muneret et al., (2018) has helped to develop the idea about the organic inputs which can lower the efficiency of the malevolent microorganisms but increases the efficiency of the benevolent microorganisms to increase the biodiversity of the agricultural field. The research of Muneret et al., (2018) has made a hypothesis on the higher infestation of the microorganisms in addition to the organic input in the field. It has been seen that the adoption of the research Muneret et al., (2018) has proved that only the benevolent microorganisms are able to make the biodiversity intensified with the help of organic farming.

In order to understand the concept of the organic farming, the analysis of the research of Aldebron et al., (2020) has been highlighted in the transition framework which helps to analyse the indicators for the increased approach of the organic inputs to reduce the harmful method of agricultural practice which has been adopted in the sustainable development which is a complex and long term process of change of course in the cultural fields. In order to incorporate the increased food value of agricultural production, it has been seen that the transition from conventional farming to organic farming is needed (Aldebron et al., 2020). On the other hand, to increase the value of the production rate, transition of conventional farming makes it difficult to increase the production rate.

2.5. Constraints of Intercropping Farming

According to the research of Degaga and Angasu, (2017) there are some of the constraints related to the intercropping system of agricultural farming. In a population of high growth rate it has been seen that intercropping demands more attention and care then the normal and conventional farming schedule. The research of Degaga and Angasu, (2017) has also helped to increase the idea about the need of an automatic expert management to maintain different cropping in a single field. It is important to know about the processes that can improve the productivity and fertility of the soil by using an intercropping system. Intercropping system is generally taken into consideration to manage the agricultural spacing so that the production rate can be increased with the help of a large volume of fields available for harvesting (Degaga and Angasu, 2017).

Intercropping system requires a high level of knowledge about the water consumption and the need of the nitrogen symbiosis with the help of ribosome. Their research of Andukwa and Ntonifor, (2021) has developed the idea about how the problems of intercropping can be deteriorated with the lack of knowledge on the balance of nitrogen symbiosis in agricultural fields. The research has emphasized on the use of system analysis models from the different literatures that without proper knowledge in the nitrogen symbiosis has had the bean produced in different agricultural fields in the world (Andukwa and Ntonifor, 2021). Intercropping can improve the fertility of the soil, basically the crops like beans but lack of knowledge about the ribosome has caused the balance to be disturbed with the help of little knowledge of the harvesters (Andukwa and Ntonifor, 2021).

The concept of the integrity is highly based on the soil fertility management which is affected by the preferences of the farmers to take into consideration. As the intercropping system requires more labour and more skills to make it properly implemented, many farmers are reluctant to take this concept of intercropping. It has been seen from the research of Krah et al., (2019) that the adoption of the intercropping for increasing the fertility of the harvesting field it is important to take the matter of intercropping. However, in many cases, it has been seen that adoption of the intercropping system can increase the cost of a farmer even if it increases the fertility and soil utility of the harvesting field. Analysis of the perception of the farmers as shown in the research of Krah et al., (2019) has explained about the constraints with the insight of the costing and the higher amount of labour along with high knowledge in the subject of the impact of the clothes on each other in a single field. It is very important to maintain the space management to maintain the fertility of the soil and not to make the soil overcrowded with excessive plants.

It has been seen that the incorporation of the intercropping can cause mass pest attack on the agricultural fields. It has been seen in the research of Nigussie et al., (2020) that the adoption of intercropping can cause pest attacks in one crop which can increase the infection in the other crops also. As a result, in spite of the higher expenses, the loss of the crops can take place. With the attack of the pest, it has been seen that the adoption of the knowledge and development of the skills cannot make the crops survive and huge financial loss can take place. The incorporation of the intercropping can also cause the development.

2.6. Future of Intercropping in Agriculture

According to Kiwia et al., (2019) intercropping is currently considered as the future in agriculture. Though it has been practised for centuries by peasants, nevertheless, it has not received much attention from agricultural researchers and scientists. In the tropical region this mechanism is quietly familiar and this mechanism can be helpful to the farmers and their families as they face shortage of cash oftenly. The global scenario is quite the same in the context of the area of agriculture left. In this ‘LPG’ (Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization) era, the agricultural land is decreasing by leaps and bounds.

For instance, over the last few decades the contribution in GDP of India from agriculture has decreased to near about 14% from a thick GDP contribution of 20%. The future of intercropping lies as intercropping incorporates many crops cultivation in the same agricultural field and relay cropping – when a second crop is cultivated in between the rows of first crops. In this era of agricultural land declination, the countries over the globe are trying to incorporate this technique in order to maintain the same GDP contribution from the agricultural sector. No country can rely only on imports for their daily food needs. They are using this technique instead of monoculture in order to produce more foods.

Farmers often prefer cropping two or even more crops in the same field which mitigates the risks of plantation failure which can be marked as a disaster for the farmers who devote all the resources to plant a single crop. Cowpea, which is the most significant legume crop, thrived with the combination of other crops. 80% of the cropland in Nigeria is used for polyculture. This will make the country maximize the land utilisation. Eight to nine crops cultivated there including banana, melons. In India, this has been a popular strategy over the last few decades as the country uses more than 80 crops in mixed cropping.

Agricultural researchers have devoted their attention to finding out the reason for the success of the intercropping over the last 15 years. Intercropping gathers nutrients from soil twice of the monoculture. This technique makes more production of foods with high quality by taking more rich nutrients from soil which can leave a major impact in the future of intercropping. Intercropping of maize and pigeon pea in Trinidad can effectively augment the ability of nutrient collection due to the gap in nutrient requirements and root depths in between the two crops. It has been discovered that intercropping makes more crops than the individual crops.optimizing resources search to place how good intercropping uses resources has incorporated an analysis of the Land Equivalent Ratio (LER). Intercropping will have sustainable and potential benefits. Equivalent ratios and the area of monocropped land need to gather yields same to those of a polyculture system.

Intercropping can assess the risk of wastage of land for a single crop . While attempting to intercrop it can make farmers realize that in how many blocks it may run. Intercropping is making a possibility of more land utilization for growing two or more crops at the same time by polyculture and relay cropping. Intercropping meets annual needs of the farmer’s livelihood and their families than a single-crop system does with taking less risk. Where hunger and malnutrition are frequent, the proof of the usefulness of this technique is clear.

Future of Intercropping

Figure 5: Future of Intercropping

(Source: Wang, 2019)

2.7. Global Application of Intercropping

The countries with high malnutrition and hunger index like Nigeria, Mali, Congo and many more African countries are using intercropping techniques. Maize, squash, pigeon pie and many other crops are produced in this technique. On the contrary, the technique incorporates the idea of uptaking high and more nutrients from soil causing many countries with less fertile agricultural land using this technique. Pacific region countries like Chile, Canada and the United States are producing more Beans, Rice and Wheat despite having the seasonal barrier of producing these crops. As this technique reduces the chances of virus attack on plants, the countries, more specifically the African countries are relying on this technique as they cannot afford more land because of their small territory and economy (Jensen et al., 2020).

On the other hand, the countries with developed economy like the United States, UK, Germany, Russia, China, India and many more like these countries are using these techniques to maintain their GDP contribution from the agricultural sector. For instance, in rice production India has achieved first position in the world by using this technique. India currently produces more than 88 crops in single land to minimize the land use and maximize the production of multiple crops. Not only that but also this intercropping mechanism has impacted the global structure of agriculture by producing high yield crops like Rice, Wheat, Lemons, Saffrons and Apple (Von et al., 2019).

In India, according to Maitra et al., (2021) the saffrons are cultivated in Kashmir by using intercropping techniques despite having an adverse climate. This technique is enabling the countries to produce off-season crops. By producing off-season crops the countries are exporting more foods after fulfilling their internal needs making them thicken foreign reserves. On the other hand, this technique is reducing the trade deficit between the countries. For instance, the off-season crops are being cultivated and this procedure is entailing the countries making more profit despite having climatic difficulties. The GDP generation of India from the Agricultural sector has decreased to 14 % from a great rate of 20% over the last few decades signifying the need of the and execution of the intercropping technique.

Not only in India but also over the globe this technique is getting wide popularity due to its cost effectiveness, minimizing land utilization, and maximizing production capability. On the contrary, using this technique the global agricultural GDP has reached a few billion US dollars. The US, which has been known for its IT services, is now producing Rice, Squash, Wheat, Maize by using this technique. India, which exports a large amount of engineering products, is now relying on the foods produced by intercropping techniques to reduce trade deficit with China which is now touching almost 2 thousand crores. More specifically, it can be said that this intercropping technique is impacting global trade (Wang, 2019).

2.8. Role of Intercropping in Increasing Food Sustainability

According to Li et al., (2020) Sustainable agriculture searches, at least in principle, to practice nature as the model for sketching agriculture systems. Global supply chain of food has been contributed by the large scale farming and industrialized farming. This has been placed to feed the world population over the last 50 years. On the other hand it met with some threats that affect the environment. More Specifically, the excessive use of chemical fertilizers being used in the intercropping technique has been affecting the environment and emitting some reactive chemicals like CO, CO2 and particulate matters like PM2.5, PM10 into the environment.

On the contrary, as stated by Russeduzzaman and Jensen, (2017) it can be said that peasants incorporate intercropping techniques for the mutual benefit of the main and secondary crops in a season and multiple crop production system. A crop of vegetable has advantage over the younger and secondary crop which is interseeded prior to vegetable ripeness. Legume intercropping crops increase Nitrogen by Nitrogen fixation whereas the non-legume intercropped crops can use Nitrogen of soil. Intercropping is a more practiced and efficient system that can be thrived on limited resources than monocropping. Intercropping system reduces the chances of damage of crops and attacks from viruses, making the food produced by this technique sustainable. On the other hand this technique enables countries around the world to minimize land usage and maximize production which makes the countries sustainable foods. Intercropping culture has been in use for the few thousand years and in the US it has been in use for the last seven decades due to its sustainable food production.

The foods which are being produced over the globe are sustainable because these foods most possibly are not attacked by viruses and bacterias. On the contrary the pesticides and chemical fertilizers which are being used in intercropping management are causing unsustainable food production. In order to get more yield and quality food peasants are using many chemical fertilizers which degrade not only is unsustainable but also degrade the land quality which could be used for future plantation. For agricultural productivity and food sustainability it is important to maintain and enhance soil fertility (Song et al., 2021).

As stated by Brahim et al., (2020) sustainable food production can be achieved by the sustainable use of the soil, light, land, water and other resources. Intercropping is believed to have the potential of producing sustainable food and this system has evolved as a sustainable way forward delivering ecological systems for weed suppression, pest and disease control, minimising uptake of soil resources, yield increasing, using sunlight, water more potentially than monoculture systems in agriculture. Nevertheless, the intercropping brings absolute yield gain which can be utilised for sustainable food production using intercropping technique. Many specialized foods for a particular region can be grown in the other part of the world which is an instance of sustainable production of food (Bhadra et al., 2021).

2.9. Types of modern intercropping techniques and their applications

Row intercropping

In the studies based by Feng, (2019) Row cropping is very similar to the land and is wide enough for facilitating operations led by machines and also promulgating independent cultivation by farmers. In the U.S and other places, the most popular pattern is strip cropping and they mostly use corn, soybeans and wheat alternately, each in six different rows.

Methods of Row Intercropping

Figure 6: Methods of Row Intercropping

(Source: Schulz, 2020)

Relay cropping

Another form of cropping has been used that is very convenient to the farmers and is called strip cropping. This process involves planting more than two or more on the same piece of land at separate times of the year. The second crop is introduced after one has already flowered. The method of relay intercropping reduces the temporary overlap time in between the harvesting of different species of crops (Hoerning, 2020). All this can be considered if the crop that comes second is cultivable post the growth of the first one. The primary examples of relay cropping are corn, chickpea, cotton and upland rice.

Trap Cropping

Trap cropping is a technique that assists in trapping pests to protect the lead crop culture. The most widely used examples that involve the trapping of pests are marigold and mustard. In certain cases, even other methods are also used if they do not fall under the earlier categories. The primary idea is to draw in a range of fungi and insects and let them feed on the secondary crops that have been made from sacrifice (Sarkar, 2018). This aids in protecting the one that is intended for sale. A new term known as Blue Hubbard squash is publicly now an efficient remedy. This method helps extinguish vine borers, squash bugs, and beetles.

The most important purpose of this form of cropping is that no pesticides are wasted. Also, the crop is now more acceptable in the market since no chemicals are being used and there is no secondary treatment of tapping areas.

The process of Trap Cropping

Figure 7: The process of Trap Cropping

(Source: Sarkar, S.C, 2018)

Intercropping using a repellent

In pursuit of using propellant-based intercropping, farmers put into use repellents after the crops have been managed. This management is done most sustainably. There is extensive use of crop guards in the form of barriers. This helps in protecting the crops from invasions and winds. Exclusively for this particular reason, safflower is grown around chickpeas and sorghum is planted around cotton plants.

Push-pull cropping

In push-pull cropping intersects the growing of repellent plants and trap in pursuit of safeguarding the cash crop. The purpose of trap species is to draw in pests and the repellent crops ward them off. The product usually grown under this technique is corn where Desmodium legume is used to push and Napier grass is used to pull (Njeru, 2020). Some larvae bore into the stem of corn and these plantations deter that.

Another technique very widely considered useful is alley cropping. The crops grown between trees are considered as alley crops. In various places, bushes and hedges are also used to form alleys. The concept behind this form of alley cropping is the lower plants are protected by the higher plants from harsh weather. The crops in the alleys are also provided shade from the intense sun rays. The prime factor in this technique is that solid erosion is almost completely nullified by the intricate root structure of the parallel plantations.

Temporal inter-cropping

In temporal intercropping, the combined plant species have different dates of maturation time. By the time the first one has harvested fully, the one that comes after has more area on the land to develop itself.

Mixed intercropping is another practice that involves sowing of different species of crops in one singular terrain having no separate arrangement in different or same rows. In this particular method the time-lapse of sowing and harvesting interjects (Dong, 2018). The protection is in terms of primary culture and forms deterrence to frosts, winds, droughts and other harsh weather situations.

Amidst all of them the most promising looks are the row technique and the alley technique. These can be safely presented and conducted without unnatural intrusions.

2.10. Discussing the present state of intercropping

In light of present scenarios large-scale farming on industrial grounds has had a significant contribution to the global food supply that is on a constant statistical rise. The population of the world is also on a steady rise with a gradual fall in the annual death rate. An increase in the department of modern medication has made this possible and therefore the need to produce more food and that too on an organic level has become an absolute necessity.

Mass production of food has led to the increase in use of chemical fertilizers that are a severe threat to the environment. In this present state of global food demand, the reintroduction of intercropping has come as a boon to the present society. In the present system intercropping is emerging as a practice that can reduce the impact of artificial methods of food production on nature. In certain cases, the potential of intercropping farming has rarely been measured outside of rural areas.

Research-based by Zhang, (2020) discusses that recently the production of maize soybean systems in China gained much traction among gains in the production of crops and decreases in consumption of fertilizers. The inter-cropping method as used in its production also lowered the amount of ammonia released into the atmosphere.

According to the study of Xiao Fei, (2019) income growth and population are on a steady increase regarding the global food market. All of this happened in a time during the degradation of a third of the world’s soil. Due to this variation in climate, the production of food and its sustainability is greatly affected. The growing of two and more crops successfully increases the cumulative yield. Yet there always remains a problem that this kind of production leads to the perfect conservation of soil and its minerals. The grains cultivated under such a process accounted for more than 22% in comparison to other forms of monocultural practices. Even the stability of these products was greater than that of the other crops.

In studies based by G. Miller, (2019) there has been quite significant development in the increase of intercropping of cotton and seedless watermelon in the eastern demographic area of South Carolina. The study also proposes that there is a requirement of changes in the normal crop management but there is definitely more potential to manifest more on the grower profits. This usually happens with the generic production of crops separately. The method of balancing these segments lies in the fact that watermelon is planted on a much later schedule than cotton.

In the studies based by Alcon, (2020) he discusses how the agricultural sector is at the crux of facing several challenges proposed by nature. This vividly includes soil pollution, water, soil erosion, and loss in biodiversity specifically in systems of monoculture. In the purview of the other aspect, the diversification of crops is seen as another option that could help reduce impacts that are negative to the enhancement of the agricultural ecosystem services (ES). Taking the market into perspective, improving resilience is of great social value but still it is not considered to be a factor in the market. Taking the present state into concern these values highlight that social support in terms of intercropping management is a crucial factor that can bring about a change in the agrarian system of the future.

2.11. Literature Gap

Research-based on the paper by Dhandapani, (2019) suggests that the Southeast Asia tropical peatlands are significant ecosystems that have a key role to play in the biogeochemical cycle of the world. There is considerable degradation in oil plant plantations due to the receding form of tropical peatlands. The main concern is the carbon balance that is disturbed in that area. The research in this form of natural hindrance could not be recorded or measured by the system as it is not possible to control natural occurrences and yet continue manifesting a culture that is solely dependent on the natural processes. This factor has really not made its way through into the research as much matter could not be unearthed in this method. In terms of natural degradation and de-escalation of resources the uses of artificial methods only deter the real purpose of pursuing the practice of intercropping.

The smallholder plan included completing the conversion of these peatlands into working places for cropping falls under the industrial procedure. If long-term processes like this are allowed to continue then harmful chemicals especially carbon-based are released into the atmosphere that cause problems for the environment and the land. These problems caused are completely irreversible and therefore it is impossible to revert them back to the previous conditions. Hence the literature on combining safe industrial practices with intercropping is absolutely not a possibility at present times. It is not possible to couple these two processes in an organic mould and therefore no research can be confidently placed and analyzed.

Integrated Farming with Intercropping

Figure 8: Integrated Farming with Intercropping

(Source: Jensus et al., 2020)

Chapter 3: Research Methodology

3.1. Overview

The present research aims to follow the guidance of Saunders on modern to apply all the research methodology steps appropriately (Saunders et al., 2003). As the study is entirely based on existing information, research has chosen the descriptive research design to conduct the investigation. Therefore, all the other methodology stages are adopted to maintain appropriate relevance with the research design.

Research philosophy is highlighted in the first layer of the Saunders onion model. Hence, by pulling the first layer of the research onion, the Interpretivism research philosophy has been adopted and applied to interpret relevant factors from both existing research and the first-hand data collected from primary sources. After that, the signal layer denotes the research approaches. In this case, the researcher adopts the active approach so that relevant patterns about the primary and secondary data can be identified and compared appropriately to provide the required solution. After that, the researcher follows the third layer, which denotes the research method. The researcher observed the mono method under qualitative study. In terms of the layer of analysing research data, a convenient way of non-probabilistic sampling was followed.

Saunder’s Research Onion

Figure 9: Saunder’s Research Onion

(Source: Saunders et al., 2003)

The present chapter describes every method adopted for the research and states how these methods were utilised.

3.2. Research Design

The present research has adopted a qualitative and descriptive research design. Designing a study to gather data in order to characterise a phenomenon, condition, or population methodically is known as a descriptive research approach (Doyle et al., 2020). However, it is more helpful in addressing the how and when than the why of a research issue. The researcher could do descriptive research using various approaches. It relies heavily on quantitative data, although qualitative data may also be used for occasional descriptive reasons. The researcher did not control or change any variables in descriptive research, in contrast to experimental research (Sundler et al., 2019). This has been vital to keep in mind. The variables are only characterised, observed, and recorded to avoid this.

There are many types of descriptive studies, and many are simple to carry out. The data are already accessible for case studies, case series, including ecological research. These may simply be acquired for cross-sectional analysis. Such studies tend to be low-cost and fast, and easy to implement. These studies are also seldom subject to rigorous ethical review, particularly in cases where the data obtained is secret.

Qualitative Descriptive Research Design

Figure 10: Qualitative Descriptive Research Design

(Source: Doyle et al., 2020)

In order to get an accurate estimate of a population’s perceptions on the role of intercropping by using organic inputs to increase the quality of sustainable food production (Taguchi, 2018). The different types of perception gathered in the Research Design allowed the researcher to achieve the research object and answer all the research questions appropriately and accurately. Data from descriptive studies conducted in various populations or at different periods in the same group may assist discover regional variance and temporal change in the area around the research subject (Abutabenjeh, and Jaradat, 2018). Therefore, the present study assisted the researcher in categorising the participants into two different categories by finding similarities between their perceptions and existing research papers. A more elaborate design might have helped to test all the hypotheses to see whether they hold up.


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