Kerala to start intercropping

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  • Published
    1st Jul, 2020


The state government of Kerala would seek the mandate of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) to modify specific laws that govern the plantation sector to allow the management to intercrop food crops with cash crops such as tea, coffee, cardamom and rubber.


Agriculture in Kerala

  • The unique features of Kerala agriculture are predominance of cash crops, homestead system of cultivation, inter-cropping of annual and perennial crops, shrinkage of area under rice crop and dominance of small holders.
  • During the past three decades the agricultural sector of Kerala has undergone wide-ranging changes in terms of ownership of land, cropping pattern, cultivation practices, productivity and intensity of cultivation.
  • The salient features of the agricultural sector in Kerala are:
    • Average holding size- 0.12 ha
    • Predominance of small and marginal farmers (92%)
    • Less area under food crops with low productivity
    • Predominance of perennial and plantations crops like coconut, rubber, tea, coffee, cashew,pepper, spices etc.
    • High cost of production mainly due to high labour cost
    • Highly erratic monsoon rains

Proposed modifications

  • Some provisions of the Kerala Land Reforms Act, Kerala Grants and Leases (Modification of Rights) Act and Kerala Land Utilisation Order might come up for legislative review if the LDF permitted.
  • The proposed modification would also permit plantations to diversify into dairy and poultry farming.
  • It would spur investment in precision farming characterised by high yield food crops, reduced use of toxic pesticides, chemical fertilisers and water.
  • Plantations encompassed 8 lakh hectares in Kerala. An amendment of the law would free up an estimated 2 lakh hectares for inter-cropping.
  • The Kerala Agriculture University had zoned Kerala into 23 agro-climatic sectors.
    • It had suggested that oranges, apples, avocados, grapefruit and winter vegetables as ideal intercrop for high altitude tea plantations in regions such as Munnar.
    • In rubber growing regions, it suggested the cultivation of rambutan, mangosteen and other tropical fruits in small plots interspersed among the trees.
    • It had also suggested jack fruit as shade trees in tea, coffee and cardamom plantations. The participants also mooted rejuvenation of cashew plantations and use of cashew mango to produce ethanol.

What is intercropping?

  • Intercropping is a farming method that involves planting or growing more than one crop at the same time and on the same piece of land.
  • It means having more than one type of crop growing in the same space at the same time.
  • The rationale behind this farming practice is that different crops planted are not likely to share insects and disease-causing agents while the goal is to produce even greater yield than would be if space was utilized by one crop.
  • However, the careless congregation of plants is not considered as intercropping.

Types of Intercropping

  • While intercropping involves the planting of more than one crop on the same piece of land at the same time, there are different methods of maximizing yield from this type of farming.
    • Row intercropping involves planting more than one crop simultaneously, with at least one of the crops planted in a row.
    • Strip intercropping is a more industrialized version of row planting and involves the planting of different crops in alternate strips, with rows big enough to allow for harvesting with machinery.
    • Mixed intercropping involves growing more than one crop simultaneously without any distinct row arrangement. Plants are bunched together naturally but in an orderly manner.
    • Relay intercropping involves the planting of more than one crop on the same piece of land with the planting of the second crop after the first crop has flowered or completed its development or just before harvesting the first crop.

Significance of intercropping

  • Suppress weeds: Besides improving yield, it helps to suppress weeds since the crops take up much space that would have allowed the weeds to grow. Some weeds also find it difficult to grow alongside some crops.
  • Increase fitness: Growing two crops alongside each other can be of great benefit, especially if their interactions increase the fitness of one or both plants.
  • Pest control: Crop diversity has proved to be one of the ways of improving pest management by reducing homogeneity of the crop. Pests can be controlled through intercropping by trap cropping, repellant intercropping, or push-pull cropping.
    • Trap cropping involves planting a crop that is more attractive to pest compared to the production crop.
    • Repellant intercropping involves growing crops with certain repellant effect.
    • Push-pull cropping is a mix of trap and repellant cropping.

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