Review Article

Impact of Cereal+legume Intercropping Systems on Productivity and Soil Health -A Review

Ankita Begam, Ramyajit Mondal, Susanta Dutta and Hirak Banerjee

  • Page No:  274 - 286
  • Published online: 30 Jun 2020
  • DOI : HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.23910/1.2020.2109

  • Abstract
  •  ramyajitmondal93@gmail.com

Intercropping involves growing of two or more cropsin definite row proportion in the same field in a given season.Presently, the practice of intercropping is mostly followed over sole cropping by small holderfarmers especially in rainfed farming, due to uncertain yield in sole cropping following abiotic stresses like drought, temperature, disease/pest incidence etc.Intercropping offers many benefits likeinsurance against total crop failure, assured or increased yield and biomass,less weed, pest and diseasemenace.The choice of compatible crops for an intercropping system depends on several factors like growth habit, ideotype, land, light, water and fertilizer utilization. In this article, we have focused only on cereal+legume intercropping systems as their associationhelp in improves soil fertility and enhance productivity. However, this cropping system have also great importance in rainfed situation, particularly Maize based intercropping system with wheat cropping sequence.We hope that this review report willprovide a valuable guideline for the researchers, extension functionaries and other stakeholders those working on intercropping systems.

Keywords :   Cereal, intercropping, legume, sole crop, yield, soil health

  • Introduction

    Recent report of United Nations Organization (UNO) says that additional people added to the world population in each year is approximately 83 million and the world population is expected to reach the 8.6 billion markby the year 2030. India shares only 2%of global land area but houses 16% of world’s population, thus India is second highly populated country after China. In the recent times, global food requirements including that of India have increased sharply while the availability of cultivated land has been decreasing day-by-day due to rapid urbanization, hence, there is a direct need to enhance cropping intensity and productivity many folds. India is having net sown area of 67% under rainfed agriculture, contributing 44% of food grains and supporting 40% of the population. Butvariouschallenges affect the rainfed situation like low and uneven distribution of rainfall and land degradation cause the low efficiency of different inputs and technology. However, livestock production is also hampered by quality fodder availability. Therefore, these factors create problems to the resource poor farmerin their year-round food production or in their subsistence livelihood. Around 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese, while 462 million are underweight and near about 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age due to undernutrition. These mostly occur in low- and middle-income countries. India contributes one third of population are undernourished. In India, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Assamand Bihar are having highest percentage of malnutrition cases. Poverty of world’s population is the main reason of causing malnutrition by restricting dietary diversity. However, malnutrition can adversely affect educational and economic of the country.Augmenting the food production sustainably on same land area may be the only option to combat poverty and malnutrition, respectively. In this context, intercropping i.e. growing of two or more crop species simultaneously in the same field in a definite row arrangement during a growing season (Ofori and Stern, 1987) could play a vital role for achieving food security and maintaining environmental quality. Intercropping system increases the yield and resource use efficiency due to enhanced temporal and spatial resource use efficiency, for which all the above-ground as well as belowground parts of crops play a vital role (Midega et al., 2014). Cereals intercropped with legumes which can efficiently utilize solar and soil resources with minimum nutrient inputs are a better option in an intercropping system.Cereal+legume intercropping system is popularized as an insurance against crop failure for monocropping under rainfed conditions though its chief goal is to ensure improved and sustainable production (Seran and Brintha, 2010; Ali et al., 2012) and higher grain yields than sole cropping (Olufemi et al., 2001; Dapaah et al., 2003). It also controlsthe quality of irrigation water through minimizing the use of inorganic N fertilizers (Dhiman et al., 2007).In the intercropping system, the loss of nitrogen by leaching from leavesand the decomposition of legume vines may also result in nitrogen transfer to the associated crop (Burton et al.,1983).


  • Importance of Cereal+Legume Inter cropping System

    a) Cereal+legume intercropping system is more stable than sole cropping or monoculture regarding soil fertility improvement, yields enhancement and financial returns (Machado, 2009; Himmelstein et al., 2017).

    b) It helps to risk reduction associated with associated with growing only one crop (Snapp et al., 2010; Himmelstein et al., 2017).

    c) In extreme weather condition, cereal intercropped with pigeonpea gave greater insurance against crop failure (Odeny, 2007; Snapp et al., 2010; Rusinamhodzi et al., 2012).

    d) Cereal intercropped with pigeon pea can not only be advantageous for resourcefull farmers but also for resource-poor farmers.This system had same positive returns in central Malawi (Kamanga et al., 2010).

    e) This intercropping system play a vital role for not only enhancing productivity and profitability, nutrient-water-radiation use efficiency, weeds-pests-diseases control but also helps to biological nitrogen fixation to complement non-leguminous crop.

    f) Intercropping system particularly cereal+legume intercropping improves the soil fertility, soil physical and chemical condition (Sanginga and Woomer, 2009).

    g) Most of the smallholder farmers prefer legumes because of its ability to reduce soil erosion and combat with declining soil fertility. In maize+cowpea and wheat+faba bean intercropping systems,cereal biomass and grain yield was increased, as reported by Barker and De Mollo (2000).

    h) Complementary relationship exists between cereals and legumes in the use of N and P, where both crops compete for available soils pool ofNand P, but the legumes have the potential to access atmospheric N (Bollen and Renders, 2008).

    i) Cereal+legume intercropping plays great role insubsistence agriculture as it provides diversified food crops in both developed and developing countries particularly in areas with irrigation water as limiting factor (Tsubo et al., 2005).

    j) Land which follows legume rotations increase the fertility of the land and helps in carbon sequestrations and biodiversity (Peoples et al., 2009). Inclusion of legume crops in cropping systems not only helps in atmospheric nitrogen fixation but also it helps in reducing CO2emission. As there is less nitrogen need to be given from outside into the field, hence, it reduces the carbon content in food products (Nieder and Benbi, 2008; Fustec et al., 2010; and Gan et al., 2011).

    k) Legumes are highly recommended for organic farming as it can fulfill the nitrogen requirement through organic source, especially where there is no livestock production going on in the farm (David et al., 2005).Absence of legumes in cropping system can lead to poor yield and decreased protein content of non-legume products.

    This article attempts to make tabulated different intercropping systems (Cereal+legume) under rainfed regions for sustaining the livelihood (Table 1).


  • Assessment of Yield Improvement Under Cereal+Legume Inter cropping System

    3.1.  Growth and yield of crops

    Growth and yield responses of component crops in any intercropping system are influenced by various factors like nature of crops, variety grown, row arrangement, and other management practices. In maize+cowpea system, the yield in sole maize (6.53 t ha-1) was significantly (p=0.003) higher than in maize (6.47 t ha-1) intercropped with cowpea. However, the above-ground total biological yield in sole maize (31.8 t ha-1) was insignificantly (p=0.055) larger than in maize (26.7 t ha-1) intercropped with cowpea. On the contrary, it has been observed that grain yield of cowpea was reduced by 43% as compared to sole crop (Polthanee et al., 2000).

    The average number of pods/ plants in sole cowpea (7.7) was significantly (p=0.039) higher than in cowpea (6.8) intercropped with maize. In addition, the average number of seeds/pods in cowpea intercropped with maize (15.0) was significantly (p=0.009) lower than in sole cowpea (15.43) (Table 2a and 2b) (Nyasasi and Kisetu, 2014).


    Among the maize based cropping system under rainfed area, intercropped maize with mash and wheat cropping sequence was given higher maize equivalent yield (52.98 q ha-1), Wheat equivalent yield (21.67 q ha-1) and maximum net return (Rs. 15933 ha-1) followed by others (Table 3) (Sharma et al., 2000).


    Plots under sole maize had minimum soil moisture, while the highest value recorded in plots under sole cowpea (Ghanbari et al., 2010). Maize+cowpea intercropping under conservation agriculture resultedin significant increase in soil organic carbon (OC), total nitrogen and exchangeable calcium after six years of practice which might be due to the amount and type of residue retained and the contribution of biologically fixed nitrogen from the cowpea (Banda et al., 2018). Intercropping of fodder maize with legumes increases dry matter yield and crude protein yield of forage over sole cropping (Javanmard et al., 2009). Maize intercropped with lablab bean along with 50 and 75 kg P2O5 ha-1 significantly improved the crude fiber, ash and ether extract content and dry matter digestibility with slight decreases in detergent fiber digestibility (Amasaib et al., 2011). Baby corn intercropped with legumes increased the productivity per unit area and land use efficiency and it also increased the atmospheric N fixing ability of the intercrops (Banik and Sharma, 2009). Fixed N remains as ‘free N’ for the use of host plant or associated or subsequent crops (Adigbo et al., 2013). Jat et al. (2014) suggested that intercropping maize and mung bean awfully influenced cobs plant-1, length of cobs, grains cob-1, 1000-grains weight, grain yield and stover yieldof maize. Grain and stover yield was found better with maize+mungbean (1:2) over maize+mungbean (1:1) and sole maize. Maize intercropped with soybean recorded significantly higher values of leaf area index (LAI), crop growth rate (CGR) and net assimilation rate (NAR). Soybean crop also gave significantly higher value of LAI, CGR and NAR. Addo-Quaye et al. (2011) also demonstrated that soybean planted in double row arrangement with maize gave significantly higher growth than soybean planted in alternate row arrangement with maize. LER can be discussed under other heading on intercropping indices

    In Sole maize consumed higher amount of water than maize-+cowpea intercropping system (Morgado and Rao, 1985). Due to higher soil matric potential (ψm) for maize (-0.07 MPa) than that of inter-cropping (-0.04 MPa) (Pinheiro, 2000). Intercrop utilized less energy at surface soil for evaporation of water because of the radiation intercepted by the intercrop canopy. In intercropping system maize helps to improve the plant water status and it showed greater water availability to intercropped maize. Intercropping system was positively affected leaf water potential (leaf ψw), as a result sole crop for maize had significantly lower values (Pinheiro, 2000).

    3.2 PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) and LAI (Leaf Area Index)

    Radiation use efficiency (RUE) and crop intercepted photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) are influenced greatly in different intercropping systems. Eskandari (2012) demonstrated that cereals+legume intercropping system effect on PAR interception on crop canopies over the sole crop (Table 4).


    In strip cropping systemsoybean recorded a 1.35 times greater value of intercepted PAR than that of row intercropping (RI), although a significant reduction intercepted PAR of soybean dry matter was found in RI due to lack of intercepted PAR (Liu et al., 2017). Cereals with greater height, growth rate, and deep and wide root system is better at competing for inputs rather than the associated minor legume crop which results in poor yield due to less availability of PAR (Liu et al., 2010). However, in cereal+legume intercropping system, the cereal component with relatively higher growth rate, height advantage and a more extensive rooting system is favored in the competition with the associated legume crop. Therefore, the greater yield loss of the minor crop occurs mainly due to reduced PAR reaching the lower parts of the intercrop canopy occupied by the minor legume (Liu et al., 2010). As soybean is sensitive to shade, the intensity and the quality of solar radiation hampered by the crop canopy highly affects the yield components and finally yield (Purcell, 2000: Liu et al., 2010). Sole crop of maize and cowpea showed a significant difference in light interception over the intercrop when cowpea was sown alone, light interception was increased linearly reaching about 80% interception of PAR at the time of 95 day after planting (DAP). Sole crop of maize and maize+cowpea intercropping system recorded a lower light interception compared to sole cowpea. Absorption of PAR was greater in additive design over the replacement series (Ghanbari et al., 2010).

    In maize+soybean intercropping system, significant differences were observed in light interception (PAR) and leaf area index (LAI) at Embu (Table 5). Sole soybean crop had more intercepted light (58.2%) and LAI (1.03) at 35 DAP. During this period, only soybean under MBILI (Managing Beneficial Interactions for Legume Intercrops)treatment recorded strong correlation between grain yield and PAR intercepted (r=0.98) and LAI (r=0.97). The soybean crop at 63 DAP in MBILI treatment had the highest light interception (84.2%) than sole soybean, maize+soybean under (2:4), and maize+soybean (2:6) systems (Matusso et al., 2014).


    Similarly, Pinheiro (2000) found that growth of plant in intercropping system was not significantly influenced. Incase of sole maize and sole cowpea, LAI were 3.36 and 2.8 respectively. But in case of intercropping LAI values fell between 1.6 and 1.39 which accounts for 47.6 and 49.6% of the sole cropping values.

    3.3.  Weed biomass

    The intercropping practice allows more competition between crops and weeds. It also increases light interception of a weakly competitive crop and can be useful to suppress weed growth (Baumann et al., 2001). Significant negative correlation was observed between the fraction of photosynthetically active radiation intercepted(F intPAR) by the canopy and both weed density and weed dry matter (WDM). In the study of Bilalis et al. (2010), maize+legume intercropping exhibited higher soil canopy cover (leaf area) than sole crops, as lowest values for FintPAR were received in sole crops. Hence, maize+legume intercropping leads to lower light availability for weeds and thus it lowers weed density and weed dry matter. Fenández-Aparicio et al. (2007) reported that intercropping of fababeans and pea with oat decreases the infection of Orobanche crenata, but sowing them as sole crops leads to more prone to infection of O. crenata. They also opined that seed germination of this weed species was reduced due to the allelo-chemicals released by cereal roots. In a study of maize+legume intercropping system, Bilalis et al. (2010) observed that density of weed value was highest for sole crops maize and the lowest in bean crop. No significant difference was found between the maize+bean and maize+ cowpea intercrop, while the differences between intercrop and sole crops were statistically significant. A significant negative correlation was observed between FintPAR) and WDM. Lawson et al. (2007) reported that legume cover crops when planted 0 to 4 weeks after planting maize, weed suppression was highest. Intercropping treatments also helped to control weed densities as compared to the sole treatments. The lowest value of weed density (24.45 m-2) was observed in cowpea+maize (10:6) intercropping system whilethe highest value (36.88 m-2) was recorded in sole maize. Further, legume+maize with 5:6 row arrangement had comparatively higher weed density than 10:6 arrangement (Table 6). Conclusively, intercropping system can play a great role in reducing the weed density in crop production system.


  • Advantage of Cereal+Legume Intercropping Over Sole Cropping as Assessed by Different Competition Indices

    Intercropping indices like land equivalent ratio (LER), relative crowding coefficient (K), aggressivity (A), competitive ratio (CR), actual yield loss (AYL) and intercropping index (IA) are the important indicesfor evaluating intercropping patterns or describing competition between component crops of intercropping systems (Ghosh, 2004; Yilmaz et al., 2007). Dariush et al. (2006) reported that average LER (1.16) gave efficient productivity in maize+soybean intercropping than sole crop.

    Maize and cowpea planted as a mixed proportion of 50:50 and 60:40 showed that the LER for maize was above 1.00, while it decreased when the maize population was more than 60% (Takim, 2012). LER is used for assessing the farming system productivity and portion of land saved (Undie et al., 2012). Takim (2012) recorded positive values of aggressivity (A) for maize and ultimately suggested that maize were dominant species in all mix-proportion. Several studies reported that maize crop always showed the positive values for aggressivity (A) index that means maize was the dominant species while cowpea crop showed negative value in view of all mixture proportion and planting patterns (Dhima et al., 2007; Yilmaz et al., 2007). Takim (2012) found higher competition ratios (CRs) for intercropped maize in all mixtures excluding 40M:60C. The mix-proportion of 50M:50C gave the higher CR value for maize and when the mixture of maize proportion increased the CR value decreased gradually. But incase of cowpea with an increase in proportion of cowpea mixtures the CR values also increased.With the increased of aggressivity (A) index, the value of competition ratio (CR) is also increased. Relative crowding coefficient helps to know the yield advantage. Values of the crowding coefficient (K) for both crops (maize and cowpea) were less than one, excluding at 100M:100C plots where cowpea crop showed the K value of 1.89 indicating an absolute yield advantage over maize while other remaining plots showed that there was no yield advantage of one crop over another. In cereals+legume intercropping system, the cereal component is known as aggressive/suppressing crop while the legume component is known as suppressed crop (Haynes, 1980). For example, in intercropping systems of barley+fababean (Strydhorst et al., 2008), maize+groundnut (Inal et al., 2007), and wheat+soybean, pigeonpea+pearlmillet, the barley, maize, wheat and pearl millet are the aggressive crops, and the faba bean, groundnut, soybean and pigeonpea are the suppressed crops. When cowpea was intercropped with extra early sown maize, it showed the higher crop values (2907.8 US$ ha-1) and lowest when intercropped with late sown maize. Maize+ cowpea intercropping with extra early, early and late maize variety showed higher crop valuesof 139, 109 and 97% respectively over sole crop (Sylvester et al., 2014). IT89KD-391 (maize+cowpea cultivar) recorded a higher mean crop value i.e. 132% compare to the sole cowpea and another maize+cowpea cultivar (IT99K-241-2) obtained a crop value that was higher than the sole cowpea by 100% (Table 7).


  • Assessment of Soil Health Improvementunder Cereal+Legume Intercropping System

    5.1.  Physico-chemical properties of soil

    Intercropping of cereal+legume has been recognized as one of the sustainable intensification pathways because it gives greater stability than sole cropping in terms of soil fertility improvement and environmental stability. So, the pulses have become a viable alternative to improve the soil health and conserve the natural resources and agricultural ssustainability. Pulse are known as soil fertility restoration crop, as they improved soil fertility status through deep rooting, nitrogen fixation, leaf sheddingability, and mobilization of insoluble soil nutrientsto soluble form. It improved not only the soil chemical properties but also the soil physical and biological properties. The inclusion of legume crops in the cereal-based cropping system is a component of integrated plant nutrient supply (IPNS) system. Expanded nutrient uptake in intercropping systems can happen over time and space. Spatial nutrient uptake can be increased through expanding root mass, while the temporal benefit of enhanced nutrient take-up occurs when there is no synchronization in nutrient demand by component crops in an intercropping system (Layek et al., 2018). Besides, if the species have diverse establishing and uptakebehaviors, as observed in cereal+legume intercropping system, the utilization of accessible supplements through different soil layer withhigher nutrient uptake is more over monocropping system. Pulse based intercropping systems improves several aspects of soil fertility, namelysoil organic matter, and humus content along with N and P availability (Jensen et al., 2012). Grain legume crops can increase soil organic matter (SOC) by several means viz, by supplying biomass, organic C and N (Garrigues et al., 2012) as well as releasing hydrogen gas as by-product of biological nitrogen fixation (BNF), which promotes bacterial population in the rhizosphere(La and Focht,1983).Some investigatorsobserved the relative advantage of intercrops over monocrops in build up of soil fertility. For example, maize+cowpea intercropping is profitable for N-deficit soil and it improved the available N, P and K content in the soil as compared with monocropping of maize (Vesterager et al., 2008). It was also reported that pulses acquire a larger part of N requirement from the air as diatomic nitrogen rather thanfrom the soil as NO3. Legume increase the soil organic matter that enhances soil physico-chemical and biological properties, ultimately reduces soil disintegration and iincreasing water and nutrient availability (Sharma et al., 2005; Dhakal et al., 2016).Intercrops can reduce the risks of nitrate leaching compared to sole cropped legume due to complementary use of soil mineral N and N2 from the air between cereals and legumesin the intercropping system(Hauggaard-Nielsen et al., 2003). Recently, cereal+legume intercropping systems is getting more attention by the researchers all over the world with the reported phenomena of enhanced soil P acquisition by cereals+legume intercropping (Li et al., 2007) and enhanced Fe and Zn uptake (Zuo and Zhang, 2009). In calcareous soils, cereals intercropped with legumesincreased P uptake of intercropped wheat as the roots of white lupin exude citrate which competes withphosphate ions for calcium phosphates and as a result, P availability and other soil chemical properties increased significantly (Gardner and Boundy,1983). Other investigators reported that chickpeaeffectively accessed organic P fromphytate by enzymatic hydrolysis and thereby facilitate P acquisition of wheat and maize in wheat+chickpea (Li et al., 2003a) and maize+chickpea system (Li et al., 2004), respectively. Oelbermann et al. (2015) conducted a study on maize+soybean intercropping system and found that soil physical and chemical characteristics were significantly different in 2007 compared to 2012, except for soil pH (Table 8).


    Soil bulk density was significantly higher at both sampling depths during 2012and was in increasing trend ranging from 9to 20% at 0–20 cm and 15 to 31% at 20–40 cm respectively. Soil organic C concentration (%) and C and N stocks (g m−2), and C:N ratio were significantly greater in 2012 for all treatments and at both depths, except for the C:N ratio in soybean sole crop at 20–40 cm depth. Soil organic C concentration showed a relative increase by 2012, ranging from 27 to 37% at 0–20 cm and from 38 to 53% at 20–40 cm. Total N concentration (%) of soil increased in 2012, but was significantly greater only in soybean sole crop at both depths and in the 1:2 intercrop at 20–40 cm. Soil total N concentration had a relative increase that ranged from5 to 20% at 0–20cmand from13 to 33% at 20–40 cm. Soil bulk density, SOC, soil total N, and C:N ratio were significantly lower at 20–40 cm depth, whereas soil pH was significantly greater at 20–40 cm.

    Intercropping controls soil disintegration by reducingimpact of falling rain drops from directly hitting the soil surface and possible sealing of surface pores, resulting an increase in water infiltration and reduces the runoff volume (Seran and Brintha, 2010). In maize+cowpea intercropping system, cowpea was reported as the best cover crop which decreased soil disintegration than a maize-bean sequence (Kariaga, 2004). Intercropping of sorghum+cowpea reduced soil loss by 50% against growing them separately (Zougmore et al., 2000).

    5.2.  Biological properties of soil

    Legume crops are well known for enriching the soil by supplying N through the process of biological nitrogen fixation (BNF), especially when N fertilizer is restricted (Fujita and Ofosu-Budu 1996). However, the nitrogen fixation in legume intercropping system depends ontype of legumes grown, the crop morphology, plant density, cultivation practices followed, nitrogen fixating capacity and aggressiveness of component crops. The legume crop modifies the carbon: nitrogen (C:N) ratio and enhances the activity of soil enzyme, as a result conversion of unavailable to available form of nutrients is also increased. Pulses also play an important role for improving the microbial environment in the soils (Kumar and Goh, 2000; Meena et al., 2014). Some legume crops like soybean, common bean, cowpea, lablab, groundnuts etc. act as an important host for these microorganisms to perform biological nitrogen fixation. They are also reported to release a part of unused nitrate fixed through symbiotic nitrogen fixation to the soil (Herridge et al., 1995).Interestingly, it was reported that about 50–60% of soybean N demand was met by biological N2 fixation (Salvagiotti et al., 2008). Song et al. (2007) found a greater soil microbial biomass and C:N ratio in intercrops (wheat+fababean, wheat+maize and maize +bean) compared to sole crops. Song et al. (2007) opined that differences in microbiological properties of the rhizosphere in the intercrops led to a greater soil microbial biomassand resulted a more diverse and active microbial communities which are capable of effectively decompose a larger variety of carbon compounds. This is probably due to microbes present in the intercropsrich in organic matter compared to the sole crops which ultimately enhances the interaction and simultaneous assimilation of C and N by heterotrophic soil organisms (Sall et al., 2007; Chen et al., 2008). The enzymatic activity occurred in the soil is generally the product of the magnitude of the microbial population in soil. The grain-legume crops boost the dehydrogenase, urease, protease, phosphatase, and β-glucosidase reactions in the soil (Roldan et al., 2003).

    5.3Soil moisture and water use efficiency

    Various improved technologies and methodologies are used to save water in agriculture like adoption of regulated deficit irrigation in crop production and productivity (Chai et al., 2014), the use of innovative water-saving practices (Fan et al., 2013) and the enforcement of bylaws and policies in water resource management (Chai et al., 2014). Water availabilityand its use efficiency are the most important factorsto determine the productivity in cereal-legume intercropping systems. Intercropping systems had significantly affect on environmental resources consumption i.e better utilization of all resources including water and uptake of nutrient as compared to sole crop due complimentarily effect of the components in an intercropping system (Eskandari, 2012). It was found that improved water use efficiency (WUE) increase the uses of other resources in an intercropping system (Hook and Gascho, 1988). Both higher leaf area and leaf area index in early crop growth stage help to conserve water (Ogindo and Walker, 2005). Hulugalle and Lal (1986) also found greater WUE in cereal+legume intercropping system than the sole crops, when soil moisture was not limiting.For the efficient crop production and WUE, continuous pearl millet and forage legume intercropping system is very important (Garba and Renard, 1991).It has been reported that soil moisture content (at 20, 60 and 80 cm except 40 cm) was significantly affected by cropping system. Sole cowpea showed higher moisture content at 20 cm depth at what stage while maize at its booting, silking and maturity stages reflected greater soil moisture content in maize+ cowpea intercropping system at what depth. Further, sole maize crop had lower moisture content compared to maize+cowpea intercropping system.Stripcropping not only enhanced the spatialdistribution of soil water across 0-110 cm rooting zones. In maize+pea intercropping system, pea plants absorbed soil moisture mostly in the top 20 cm layers,whereas maize plants consumed water from deeper-layers of the acquaintance pea strips.Intercropped maize absorbed compensatory soil moisture from the pea strips after harvesting pea andwithout any root barrier inthe intercropping system, it increased grain yield and WUE by 25 and 24%, respectively compared to intercropping with the root barrier (Chen et al., 2018).Strip-intercropping was one of such most effective approaches to improve WUE in field crops production.To reduce runoff and conserve soil moisture in field, intercropping can be used as a key strategy and improve water productivity (Fan et al., 2013; Chai et al., 2014; Tanwar et al., 2014; Sharma et al., 2017). In case of sole crop, soil moisture content was significantly (p<0.05) higher than for intercrop treatments. Intercropping system of additive design had lower soil moisture content as comparedto replacement designof intercropping (Eskandari, 2012).


  • Residual Effect of Cereal+Legume Intercropping System

    In cereal+legume intercropping system, legume crops fix the atmospheric Nin the soil and this helps to improve the soil fertility and supplies nutrients for the sequential crops (Ofori and Stern, 1987). Grain yield of maize was significantly increased by 46% when sown after leguminous soybean crop than that of natural fallow (Yusuf et al., 2009). Kureh and Kamara (2005) also reported thatwhen maize is sown after one year of soybean and cowpea cultivation, it increased the grain yield of maize by 28 and 21%, respectively than the continuous sowing of maize crop. But maize sowing after two years of soybean+maize and cowpea+maize intercropping, brought about 85 and 66% yieldincrease in maize, respectively than that of mono-cropping of maize.Maize yield could be increased to the tune of 340% due to four successive cropping seasonsin glyricidia+maize intercropping system as compared to unfertilized sole maize (Akinnifesi et al., 2007).


  • Economic Benefits of Cereal+Legume Intercropping System

    Smallholder farmers are supposed to get more monetary benefit from the intercropping system than the monocrops (Seran and Brintha, 2010). Osman et al. (2011) opined that intercropping systems increased the productivity and income especially for smallholder farmers and reduced risk of crop failure. According to Mucheru-Muna et al. (2010), MBILI (Managing Beneficial Interactions for Legume Intercrops)system with bean as an intercrop reflected 40% higher net benefits compared to conventional system with beans, and similarly 50–70% higher benefits with cowpea or groundnut in MBILI system.While working on maize+cowpea intercropping system, Segun-Olasanmi and Bamire (2010) found that farmers get more profits than their sole crops. Osman et al. (2011) reported that in cowpea+millet intercropping system, 2:1 ratio gave significantly higher economic benefit than 1:1 ratio with better monetary advantage index (MAI). Sorghum+cowpea  system (2:1) gave higher economic return compared to the other arrangements and the sole crops (Oseni, 2010).


  • Conclusion

    The cereal+legume intercropping systemsarepopular among farmers across rainfed regions as they ensure minimum to higher productivity and net farm income,risk minimization, soil conservation, weed control and restoration of soil health. They also improve soil physical, chemical and biological properties which in turn support better crop growth and yield. Though, intercropping has been in vogue since several decades, many farmers don’t adopt definite row proportions and select proper combination of crops. Hence, efforts must be made to map location specific, highly productive and profitable intercropping systems across different agro-climatic zones and the same have to be upscaled and out scaled.


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Cite

1.
Begam A, Mondal R, Dutta S, Banerjee H. Impact of Cereal+legume Intercropping Systems on Productivity and Soil Health -A Review IJBSM [Internet]. 30Jun.2020[cited 8Feb.2022];11(1):274-286. Available from: http://www.pphouse.org/ijbsm-article-details.php?article=1382

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