Crop Diversity for Yield Increase
Traditional farming practices suggest that cultivation of a mixture of crop species in the same field through temporal and spatial management may be advantageous in boosting yields and preventing disease, but evidence from large-scale field testing is limited. Increasing crop diversity through intercropping addresses the problem of increasing land utilization and crop productivity. In collaboration with farmers and extension personnel, we tested intercropping of tobacco, maize, sugarcane, potato, wheat and broad bean – either by relay cropping or by mixing crop species based on differences in their heights, and practiced these patterns on 15,302 hectares in ten counties in Yunnan Province, China. The results of observation plots within these areas showed that some combinations increased crop yields for the same season between 33.2 and 84.7% and reached a land equivalent ratio (LER) of between 1.31 and 1.84. This approach can be easily applied in developing countries, which is crucial in face of dwindling arable land and increasing food demand.