"Food security has been a significant issue for the livelihood of smallholder family farms in highly populated regions and countries. Industrialized farming in more developed countries has increased global food supply to meet the demand, but the excessive use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides has negative environmental impacts", a group or researchers say, adding that finding sustainable ways to grow more food with a smaller environmental footprint is critical.
This research team developed an integrated cropping system that incorporates four key components: 1) intensified cropping through relay planting or intercropping, 2) within-field strip rotation, 3) soil mulching with available means, such as crop straw, and 4) no-till or reduced tillage. Sixteen field experiments, conducted with a wide range of crop inputs over 12 consecutive years (2006 to 2017), showed that the integrated system with intercropping generates significant synergies—increasing annual crop yields by 15.6 to 49.9% and farm net returns by 39.2% and decreasing the environmental footprint by 17.3%—when compared with traditional monoculture cropping.
The team concludes that smallholder farmers can achieve the dual goals of growing more food and lowering the environmental footprint by adopting integrated farming systems.
Read the complete research at www.pnas.org.
Integrated farming with intercropping increases food production while reducing environmental footprint Qiang Chai, Thomas Nemecek, Chang Liang, Cai Zhao, Aizhong Yu, Jeffrey A. Coulter, Yifan Wang, Falong Hu, Li Wang, Kadambot H. M. Siddique, Yantai Gan
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Sep 2021, 118 (38) e2106382118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2106382118