- Traditionally, increased food production has come from putting more land under cultivation.
However, in large areas of the world, especially in Asia, all the land that can be economically
cultivated is already in use.
- In future, most of the extra food needs must come from higher production
from land already being farmed. A major share of this increase is likely to come from increasing the
number of crops produced per year on a given land using improved crop cultivars. Such multiple
cropping offers potential not only to increase food production but also land degradation.
- In India, the concept of cropping systems is as old as agriculture. Farmers preferred mixed cropping,
especially under dry land conditions, to minimise the risk of total crop failure. Even in Vedas, there
is a mention of first and second crops, indicating the existence of sequential cropping.
- A system is defined as a set of components that are interrelated and interact among
themselves. A cropping system refers to a set of crop systems, making up the cropping activities of a
farm system. Cropping system comprises all components required for the production of a particular
crop and the interrelationships between them and environment (TAC, CGIAR, 1978). In other words,
a cropping system usually refers to a combination of crops in time and space. Combination in time
occurs when crops occupy different growing period and combinations in space occur when crops are
- When annual crops are considered, a cropping system usually means the combination
of crops within a given year (Willey et al., 1989
The yearly sequence and spatial arrangement of crops or of crops and fallow on a given area.
The cropping patterns used on a farm and their interaction with farm resources, other farm
enterprises, and available technology which determine their make up.
The turn around period between one crop and another is minimised through modified land
preparation. It is possible when the resources are available in plenty. Ex. Garden land cultivation.
Cropping intensity is higher in intensive cropping system. Crop intensification technique includes
intercropping, relay cropping, sequential cropping, ratoon cropping, etc. All such systems come
under the general term multiple cropping.
Need for intensive cropping
• Cropping systems has to be evolved based on climate, soil and water availability for efficient
use of available natural resources.
• The increase in population has put pressure on land to increase productivity per unit area, unit
time and for unit resource used.
• This cropping system should provide enough food for the family, fodder for cattle and generate
sufficient cash income for domestic and cultivation expenses.
Intensive cropping: Growing number of crops on the same piece of land during the given period of
Cropping intensity: Number of crops cultivated in a piece of land per annum is cropping intensity.
In Punjab and Tamil Nadu, the cropping intensity is more than 100% (i.e. around 140-150%). In
Rajasthan, the cropping intensity is less.
Multiple cropping: The intensification of cropping in time and space dimensions. Growing two or
more crops on the same field in a year.
Forms of multiple cropping
Intercropping: Growing two or more crops simultaneously on the same field. Crop intensification is
in both time and space dimensions. There is intercrop competition during all or part of crop growth.
(a) Mixed intercropping: Growing two or more crops simultaneously with no distinct row
arrangement. Also referred to as mixed cropping. Ex: Sorghum, pearl millet and cowpea are
mixed and broadcasted in rainfed conditions.
(b) Row intercropping: Growing two or more crops simultaneously where one or more crops are
planted in rows. Often simply referred to as intercropping. Maize + greengram (1:1), Maize +
blackgram (1:1), Groundnut + Rredgram (6:1)
(c) Strip intercropping: Growing two or more crops simultaneously in strips wide enough to
permit independent cultivation but narrow enough for the crops to interact agronomically. Ex.
Groundnut + redgram (6:4) strip.
(d) Relay intercropping: Growing two or more crops simultaneously during the part of the life
cycle of each. A second crop is planted after the first crop has reached its reproductive stage
of growth, but, before it is ready for harvest. Often simply referred to as relay cropping. Ricerice
Advantages of intercropping
• Better use of growth resources including light, nutrients and water
• Suppression of weeds
• Yield stability; even if one crop fails due to unforeseen situations, another crop will yield and
• Successful intercropping gives higher equivalent yields (yield of base crop + yield of intercrop),
higher cropping intensity
• Reduced pest and disease incidences
• Improvement of soil health and agro-eco system
Sequential cropping: Growing two or more crops in sequence on the same field in a farming year.
The succeeding crop is planted after the preceding crop has been harvested. Crop intensification is
only in time dimension. There is no intercrop competition.
(a) Double, triple and quadruple cropping: Growing two, three and four crops, respectively, on
the same land in a year in sequence.
Ex. Double cropping: Rice: cotton; Triple cropping: Rice: rice: pulses; Quadruple cropping:
Tomato: ridge gourd: Amaranthus greens: baby corn
(b) Ratoon cropping: The cultivation of crop re-growth after harvest, although not necessarily for
grain. Ex. Sugarcane: ratoon; Sorghum: ratoon (for fodder).
The various terms defined above bring out essentially two underlying principles, that of growing
crops simultaneously in mixture, i.e., intercropping; and of growing individual crops in sequence,
i.e., sequential cropping. The cropping system for a region or farm may comprise either or both of
these two principles.