Intercropping—evaluating the advantages to broadacre systems
journal contributionposted on 2021-08-13, 01:58 authored by U Khanal, KJ Stott, Roger ArmstrongRoger Armstrong, JG Nuttall, F Henry, BP Christy, M Mitchell, PA Riffkin, AJ Wallace, M McCaskill, T Thayalakumaran, GJ O’leary
Intercropping is considered by its advocates to be a sustainable, environmentally sound, and economically advantageous cropping system. Intercropping systems are complex, with nonuniform competition between the component species within the cropping cycle, typically leading to unequal relative yields making evaluation difficult. This paper is a review of the main existing metrics used in the scientific literature to assess intercropping systems. Their strengths and limitations are discussed. Robust metrics for characterising intercropping systems are proposed. A major limitation is that current metrics assume the same management level between intercropping and monocropping systems and do not consider differences in costs of production. Another drawback is that they assume the component crops in the mixture are of equal value. Moreover, in employing metrics, many studies have considered direct and private costs and benefits only, ignoring indirect and social costs and benefits of intercropping systems per se. Furthermore, production risk and growers’ risk preferences were often overlooked. In evaluating intercropping advantage using data from field trials, four metrics are recommended that collectively take into account all important differences in private costs and benefits between intercropping and monocropping systems, specifically the Land Equivalent Ratio, Yield Ratio, Value Ratio and Net Gross Margin.