Intercropping In Fruit Crops – In India

Intercropping in Fruit crops in India

Intercropping involves cultivating two or more crops in a field simultaneously and it has been practiced by farmers for many years in various ways. When two or more crops are growing together, each crop has adequate space to maximize cooperation and reduce competition between them. This is accomplished by different factors like the spatial arrangement, plant density, maturity dates of the crops grown, and plant architecture.

The intercropping in fruit crops must be stopped when trees develop a wide canopy and less space is available between two rows for raising secondary crop and trees have shading effects on the secondary crop. Then, green manuring or cover cropping should be only practiced. It can be concluded that intercropping of short duration vegetables in fruit orchard not only maximize the resource utilization in terms of land, labor, and other inputs but also play a major role in minimizing the risk of crop failure by ensuring and enhancing the net income per unit of area. Intercropping mainly includes the growing of two or more cash crops together. Also, it includes the growing of a cash crop with a cover crop or other non-cash crop that provides benefits to the primary crop or the overall farm system.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Intercropping in Fruit Crops in India

Guide to Intercropping in Fruit Crops
Guide to Intercropping in Fruit Crops (Image credit: Pixabay)

The objectives of Intercropping in Fruit Crops

Intercropping in fruit crops practiced as insurance against crop failure under rainfall conditions. At present, the main objective of intercropping is higher productivity per unit area and also stability in production. Intercropping systems utilize resources sufficiently and also their productivity is increased. The main objectives of intercropping are;

  • The main objective is insurance against total crop failure under aberrant weather conditions or pest epidemics.
  • Increase in total crop productivity per unit of land area.
  • Judicious utilization of resources such as land labor and inputs.

The Selection of the Intercropping in Fruit Crops

Some important rules to be followed in the selection of the intercropping crops;

  • Caution must be ensured while selecting crops with different growth habits, duration, root growth, and taxonomical families, etc.
  • Grow tall-growing crops along with bushy crops.
  • Select shallow-rooted crops as intercrop in the deep-rooted crop.
  • Long duration crops must be intercropped with short duration crops.
  • Grow slow-growing crops in vacant spaces of fast-growing crops.
  • Selected main crops and intercrops should show a negligible allelopathic effect.
  • Need to intercrop non-legumes with intercrops.
  • Selected crops must be of different families to avoid various pests and diseases.

Types of Intercropping in Fruit Crops

Mixed intercropping – In this method of intercropping in fruit crops, planting two or more crops simultaneously with no distinct row arrangement.

Row intercropping – In this method of intercropping in fruit crops, growing two or more crops simultaneously where one or more crops are planted in rows. When in intercropping at least one crop is planted in rows, the intercropping is also called row intercropping. In farms growing perennial crops, annual crops such as Corn, Rice, and Pineapple are commonly grown as an intercrop between the rows of the main crop. This strategy is an efficient method of maximizing the use of farmland by utilizing vacant spaces while at the same time suppressing the growth of the weed during the juvenile stage of the main crop.                                 

Relay intercropping or relay cropping – In this method of intercropping in fruit crops, planting two or more crops simultaneously during part of the life cycle of each. A second crop is planted after the first crop has reached its reproductive phase but before it is ready for harvest. In the relay intercropping system, intercrops were sown or planted when the main crops reach maturity but before harvesting of the base crop.

Strip intercropping – In this method of intercropping in fruit crops, growing of two or more crops together in strips wide enough to permit separate production of crops using mechanical implements, but close enough for the crops to interact is termed as strip intercropping system. In this system, we will grow more than one crop in strips to allow independent cultivation in the same piece of land.

Patch intercropping – In this method of intercropping in fruit crops, intercrops are grown in patches in the vacant spaces in the same piece of land.

Parallel Intercropping – In this process of intercropping in fruit crops, both selected intercrop and main crops are with different growing habits. Therefore, there will zero competition for the available resources. Thus, both crops can express their full yield potential.

Sequential cropping – In this method of intercropping in fruit crops, growing two or more crops one after the other (in sequence) in the same piece of land is called sequential cropping.

Companion cropping – In this method of intercropping in fruit crops, the two crops are grown maintaining their standard plant population to get the yield of each crop equal to its sole crop.

Difference between Intercropping and Crop Rotation

Intercropping and crop rotation is not the same thing. In that sense, intercropping requires that different types of crops are grown in the same space at the same time. On the other hand, crop rotation is the concept of growing different types of crops in the same space at different times. In crop rotation, the plants don’t need to be good companions in the same way.

Intercropping system is the growing of two or more crops together in proximity on the same land. Therefore, two or more crops are managed at the same time. It differs from crop rotation in which two or more crops are grown one after the other crop.

Differences between intercropping and crop rotation;

Intercropping in fruit crops  Crop rotation in fruit crops
Planting two or more crops simultaneously in the same field in a definite pattern.  Planting different crops on the same land in preplanned succession.  
Increases productivity per unit area. Pesticides can be easily applied to the individual crop.  Helps to reduce the use of chemical fertilizers.  
Both crops can be easily harvested and threshed.  Helps to control pests, weeds, and diseases.  
Soil erosion is reduced. Allows better use of natural resources like light, soil, air, and water.  Allows soil to recover its lost nutrients.  

Principles of Intercropping in Fruit Crops

  • Usually, intercrops occupy a secondary place in the orchard, primary consideration being given to the perennial fruit trees.
  • The crops that grow tall and have a tendency towards excessive growth should be discouraged.
  • At least a 120 cm radius should be left from the base of the growing fruit trees for taking intercrops.
  • Such intercrops must be selected that do not exhaust the nutrients and moisture from the soil, so essential for the growth of fruit trees.
  • Perennial or exhaustive crops must be discouraged as an intercrop in the orchard.
  • This may have a devitalizing effect on the growing trees.

Advantage of Intercropping in Fruit Crops

Advantages of intercropping fall into three basic categories. Firstly, an intercrop uses resources of light, water, and nutrients more efficiently than single crops planted in separate areas, and this can improve crop yields and income. After that, crop mixtures frequently have lower pest densities, especially insect pests. Then, this occurs both because the mixture confuses the insects and if the mixture is chosen carefully because the mixture attracts beneficial predators. Finally, intercropping allow for more effective management of cover crops.

Optimum Use of Soil – Intercropping in fruit crops makes the most of the available soil. Then, the crop tends to absorb as much water and nutrients as it needs. Intercropping averts soil runoff and can prevent the growth of weeds.

Greater Income, Greater Yield – Intercropping in fruit crops offers greater financial returns for a farmer. It will help farmers use the same land as available and yield more as well as diverse produce.

The advantages of intercropping in fruit crops are given below;

  • Intercropping in fruit crops gives additional crop yield income/unit area than sole cropping.
  • Intercrops maintain soil fertility as the nutrient uptake is made from layers of soil.
  • Intercropping in fruit crops utilizes resources efficiently and their productivity is increased.
  • Intercropping with cash crops is highly profitable.
  • Intercropping in fruit crops reduces the risk of total crop failure due to crop diversification.
  • There is the best utilization of interspaced available between two rows of the main crop.
  • Efficient utilization of available resources.
  • Intercropping in fruit crops will increase gross returns per unit area.
  • Greater stability of yield over the seasons.
  • Intercropping in fruit crops will have better control over weeds, pests, and diseases.
  • Intercropping in fruit crops prevents soil erosion

Disadvantage of Intercropping in Fruit Crops

  • Crop yield decreases as the crops differ in their competitive abilities.
  • Harvesting is difficult.
  • Sometimes intercrops work as alternate hosts for various pests and diseases.
  • Differential maturity and sometimes harvesting may become a problem.
  • Intercropping in fruit crops may become difficult to control various pests and diseases.
  • Intercropping in fruit crops is a labor-intensive practice.
  • Allelopathic effect.
  • Possibility of problems in carrying out intercultural operations.
  • Intercropping in fruit crops has difficulty in mechanization.

Intercropping in Different Fruit Crops

Best Intercrop for Banana
  • Intercrop can easily be grown in Banana plantations at the earlier stage of crop growth. In some parts of India, mixed cropping also is practiced in Banana.
  • Planting of Banana can be followed by the planting of some intercrops like Brinjal, Turmeric, Chillies, Bhendi, Radish, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Spinach, and Maize, etc., depending on climatic conditions. Some farmers used to intercrop elephant foot yam in Banana orchard and get additional income. Also, farmers grow Elephant Foot Yam, Green Gram, and Maize in Banana orchard.
  • Cassava/plantain combination is one of the most efficient cropping systems. The total returns highest in Banana intercropped with Bhindi (lady’s finger) followed by cluster bean lablab. This is one of the ideal crops to intercrop with Banana.
  • Radish, Colocasia, Yam, Dioscorea, Lady’s Finger, Marigold, Tuberose, Papaya, Areca Nut, Coffee, Rubber are also used as the ideal crops to intercrop with Banana.
Best Intercrop for Guava
  • Guava is a common tropical fruit and has good nutritive value.
  • Intercropping in guava orchard gives additional income to the farmers in the juvenile phase of the plant. The plant growth characters like height and girth were influenced by intercrops such as Paddy, Black gram, Ginger, and Pigeon pea.
  • Guava intercrops Black gram and Pigeon pea gave a positive response. Ginger was found most profitable among others used as intercrops in guava orchards. The soil properties were improved by the use of intercrops. Also, Guava orchards may be intercropped with short growing leguminous crops like Mash, Moong, Guar, and vegetables during the pre-bearing period.
  • Leguminous crops or vegetables can be grown as intercrops during the first 3 years of planting provided an irrigation facility is available.
  • Intercropping in guava orchards increases the productivity of the orchard and also the quality of the fruits by improving the fertility status of the orchard soil.
  • Intercropping gives additional income to the farmers during the juvenile phase of the guava crops.
  • The guava growers can get double profit by cultivating several crops in their orchards. As the winter season is starting, different crops such as Carrot, Radish, Grams, and Beans can be sown among the rows of trees. Similarly, in the summer season, Okra, Eggplant, and Tomatoes, etc. can be grown as Guava intercrop.
Mango Based Intercropping System or Best Intercrop for Mango
  • Intercropping with vegetables and fruit crops has been found more beneficial to the growers as it could boost total crop production per unit area. Also, it improves soil fertility due to the continuous biomass addition by the subsidiary crops.
  • Intercropping in Mango orchard promotes infestation of pests and diseases in greater intensity than under clean cultivation. This is due to an increase in the humidity and vegetation around the Mango trees due to intercrops. Therefore, regular plant-protection measures against pests and diseases of the mango crop are essential. Three root tuber crops like Sweet Potato, Elephant Foot Yam, and Cassava were intercropped in a 12-year-old mango orchard with two-level fertilizers, i.e. full and half dose of recommended NPK. Among all intercrop, Elephant Foot Yam with a full recommended dose of about 80:60:80 kg NPK /ha gives the highest corn yield 48.0 t/ ha with a net return of 2.29 lacks/ha and in terms of the net return / reinvested.
  • Also, farmers cultivating Brinjal and Tomato as intercrop in Mango orchards. The farmers have been intercropping improved mango fruit trees with food crops like Maize, Sorghum, and Cassava, Sweet Potatoes, Nitrogen Fixing Legumes (Beans and Groundnuts), and indigenous vegetables.
Best Intercrop for Papaya
  • In Papaya, intercropping leguminous crops after non-leguminous ones, shallow-rooted crops after deep-rooted ones are beneficial. No intercrops are taken after the onset of the flowering stage in Papaya.
  • To keep the plot free of weeds during the pre-bearing age of first to 6 months after planting, short duration vegetable crops can be grown as intercrops. Once papaya starts bearing it is difficult to grow intercrops because of the shade.
  • Papaya can be grown as an intercrop in fruit plantations of Mango, Litchi, and Sapota, etc. Also, it can be grown as an intercrop in Coconut and Arecanut plantations, where there is no shade in the inter-spaces.  
Best Intercrop for Sapota
  • The Sapota farming area is used for growing legumes and short-duration crops during the pre-bearing period. These intercrops are raised for generating more profit and fixing the nitrogen levels in the soil.
  • The Sapota farms are intercropped with some vegetable crops such as Tomato, Cabbage, Cauliflower, and French Beans, etc. Sapota intercropping with Banana, Papaya, Pineapple, and Cocoa; Peas, Brinjal, and Cucurbits is recommended depending upon the climate and irrigation facilities available.
Best Intercrop for Lemon/Citrus

Lemon intercropping with many crops like Cowpeas, Vegetables, and French Beans can be done in an initial 2 to 3 years.  Intercropping is advisable during the initial 3 to 4 years after planting.

Best Intercrop for Dates
  • Dates are possible to grow intercrops such as Green Gram, Black Gram, Beans, and Lentils, crops of Tomatoes, Papaya, and Pomegranate. Ensure adequate water and fertilizers required in the case of intercropping.
  • For first harvesting, 4 to 5 years are required. In between vegetables like Guar Gum, Rice, Chilly, Peas, and Brinjal, etc., can be taken as intercrop.
Best Intercrop for Apple

In case if you miss this: Growing Strawberries In Greenhouse.

Interspace in Apple Orchard
Interspace in Apple Orchard (Image source: Pixabay)
  • When compared with Soybean, Peanut was more suitable for intercropping with apple trees to obtain economic benefits.
  • Some agronomic measures such as regular canopy pruning, root barriers, additional irrigation, and fertilization should be applied in the intercropping systems.
  • The major impact of intercrops on the relative economic yield of apple (system equivalent yield) revealed that the apple trees intercropped with pea had better benefit.

Best Intercrop for Mosambi

  • An inter-cropping trial was conducted on a 3-year-old Mosambi sweet orange orchard planted at about 5 m × 5 m spacing and growing under rain-fed laterite soil to identify the suitable and profitable intercrops.
  • The intercrops grown with Mosambi were Cowpea, Ridge Gourd, Groundnut, Radish, Black Gram, Okra, Amaranthus, and Cluster Bean.
  • Inter-spaces are made in a Mosambi crop for growing nitrogen-fixing crops until the plants start flowering during the initial 3 years of plantation. Green gram, Black gram, or any other Legume crops, Groundnut, vegetables like Beans, etc are cultivated to be used as nitrogen fixation crops.

Best Intercrop for Coconut

Schedules for intercropping may be drawn up based on the canopy size, age, and spacing of palms. In general, palms in the age group of 8 to 25 years are not suitable for inter and mixed cropping. Though, Cereals and Tapioca are recommended as intercrops in young coconut plantations for up to 3-4 years. Then, Ginger and Turmeric are shade-tolerant crops with shallow roots; they can be intercropped in a Coconut garden even in the age group of 15 to 25 years. Under conditions of wider spacing i.e. beyond 7.6 meters, intercropping is possible irrespective of the age of the palms.

Unlike in annual crops, Coconut intercropping does not affect the productivity of the main crop.

The following crops are recommended as Coconut intercrops.

  • Cereals – Rice, Maize
  • Legumes and Pulses – Groundnut, Horse gram, and Cowpea
  • Tubers – Tapioca, Sweet Potato, Yams, and Colocasia
  • Spices and condiments – Ginger, Turmeric, Chilli, Pepper, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, and Clove
  • Fruit plants – Banana, Pineapple, and Papaya. (Banana variety Palayankodan is recommended in the reclaimed soils)
  • Beverage crop – Cocoa

Best intercrop for Pomegranate

Start intercropping only after 6 to 8 months of Pomegranate plantation. You can grow Onion, Cucumber, Mug, Cow Pea, and Soybean, etc. as an intercrop with Pomegranate.

Best intercrop for Custard-apple

  • Intercropping with some Legumes, Peas, Beans, and Marigold flowers are commonly taken by the growers.
  • In the initial years of Custard Apple planting, intercrops like Groundnut, Minor Millets, Linseed, and Gram should be grown.
  • Legumes, Peas, Beans, and Marigold plants are intercropped with custard apple plants to generate extra income and to keep a check on the weeds.
  • During the pre-bearing period, short growing crops like Groundnut, Ragi, Bajra Wheat, Pulses, and Vegetables (except solanaceous crops) can be profitably grown in the interspaces.

Crops to Intercrop for Avocado

  • As intercropping in Avocado provides extra income, farmers can choose to have any kind of vegetable or pulse crops in the interspace. These crops fix the nitrogen and suppress the weeds and increase soil fertility. The only precaution must be taken care to grow the crops a little far from an avocado plant.
  • During the first 3 to 5 years of planting, Avocado orchards may be inter-cropped with other crops such as Beans, Peas, Kale, or Cabbage to get economic returns from the land before the Avocado trees start bearing or produce economic returns.
  • Intercropping with legumes or shallow-rooted crops may be achieved in younger orchards which can smoother weed also. The monoculture plantation of the Avocado tree may be maintained with sod culture.

Best Intercrop with Pummelo

Planting of intercrops like Banana on the strips between the rows of Pummelo crop has been practiced to maximize utilization of vacant farm spaces, provide shade and protection from wind, and serve as cash crops during the juvenile phase of the main crop. Also, annual intercrops will serve as a cover crop.

Crops to Intercrop with Jackfruit

  • Jackfruit fruit yield was found to improve markedly by growing intercrops. It is advisable to utilize the inter-space by growing intercrops during the gestation period of jackfruit, which gives some extra income to the grower.
  • Vegetables like Radish, Brinjal, Chilli, and Cabbage, etc can be grown with assured irrigation facilities.
  • The spaces between the rows of the Jackfruit trees should be cultivated and used for the production of annual or perennial intercrops or both.
  • Examples of such intercrops are Citrus, Banana, Pineapple, Corn, Peanut (Groundnut), and other Pulses, Spices, and vegetables. Then, this will maximize farm productivity in addition to the benefits of proper weed control management. If not, leguminous cover crops can be seeded.

Best Intercrop for Tamarind

Intercrops like leguminous crops, short-duration vegetable plants; annual Drumstick, Sesamum, and Sorghum may be raised in the alley spaces for up to 4 years. Intercropping in the perennial plantation is one of the main forms of multiple cropping for increasing production and profit in available land. In intercropping, productivity is improved either by efficient interception of available solar energy or by having a crop of greater radiation use efficiency. Also, some fodder crops and pulses can be cultivated as an intercrop in the same field.

Best Intercrop for Jamun

Intercropping improved the fertility of the soil. Some fruit crops like Peach, Plum, Guava, Kinnow, Phalsa, and Papaya can be grown as filler trees. Such filler trees can be uprooted when the Jamun trees start bearing commercial crops.In the initial years of planting, when a lot of interspaces is obtainable in the orchard, appropriate intercrop especially Legummous crops and vegetables can be taken during the rainy season.

Best Intercrop for Amla (Indian Gooseberry)

  • Inter crops like Green Gram, Black Gram, Cowpea, and Horse Gram can be grown up to 8 years. Though, cultivation of medicinal plants as intercrops would provide returns till the Amla comes to bearing.
  • Small size and height crops such as Green Gram, Black Gram, Cowpea and Horse Gram, or any other medicinal, aromatic, or floriculture crops can be grown.

Best Intercrop for Pineapple

  • Pineapple is a rain-fed crop requiring an equal amount of shade and temperature levels. It can be mostly intercropped with coconut and rubber.
  • Also, Sunn Hemp, Rapeseed, African marigold, or weeds were intercropped with pineapples.
  • In the wider space between the double rows of pineapple, you can grow beans or groundnuts during the 1st year. This improves the soil. Pineapple plants grow best and give better quality fruit when there is some shade. Apart from Bananas, you can also plant a few trees in between pineapples to provide some shade.

Best intercrop for Strawberry

  • Intercropping system offers a new approach to crop cultivation. Then, this unused soil surface between strawberry rows is an area in which intercropping can be used.
  • Legumes can provide nitrogen, as well as biological and physical barriers against some pests and diseases. Since Leguminous crops constitute an important part of food and feed, growing them as an intercrop makes it possible to optimize land use and to ensure protein output for consumption. Also, Legumes are used to improve soil quality.
  • Introducing intercropping in horticulture is very important due to the decrease in soil fertility caused by intensive and inappropriate land use. The main focus of this survey was on the use of legumes as intercrops in Strawberry fields to keep Strawberry quality and possibly improve it.
  • Intercropping systems need less pesticide use, thus diminishing the environmental load and ensuring consumer demand for healthy food.

Best Intercrop for Kinnow

  • The success of the intercropping system mainly depends on the selection of suitable intercrop as the pre-harvest management practices influence the Kinnow growth.
  • Take intercrop in young and nonbearing orchards. Take Pea, Moong, Mash, Cowpea, and Gram as intercrop. Take intercrop up to 4 years.   

Best Intercrop for Cashew

  • Plough the interspaces after the receipt of rain and raise Groundnut or Pulses or Minor Millets till the trees reach bearing age.
  • In the west Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, the Cashew crop is grown in combination with Casuarina and Coconut.
  • In Kerala and coastal Karnataka, pineapple is grown as a biennial crop in the initial 4 to 5 years and farmers find it far more profitable than crops such as Red gram and Cassava.
  • The main concept of intercropping is to increase the productivity and reliability of production.
  • Tall growing intercrops such as certain varieties of Sorghum and Millet should not be encouraged between young cashews, as they provide too much shade. Leguminous crops such as Groundnut and Beans are suitable for intercropping. Besides the annual crops, arid zone fruit crops having less canopy especially Annona, and Phalsa, etc., can be thought of, depending on the suitability.
  • Cultivation of Horse Gram, Cowpea, and Groundnut, etc is recommended as intercrops in cashew. Intercropping Cashew, Casuarina, and Coconut are popular.

Best Intercrop for Pears

  • Intercropping is the best method to make some additional income from 1 to 2 years of plantation.
  • Inter crops like Wheat, Green Gram, Peas, and Sunflower are best suited. Some of the crops include Mash, Moong, Wheat, and Gram, etc.
  • In the Kharif season, crops like Mash, Moong can be taken as intercrops. Wheat, Pea, Gram is taken as Rabi crop during the non-bearing season.

Best Intercrop for Peach

Additional income can be obtained by growing intercrops such as Ginger, Chilli, French bean, Rice beans, Urd bean, and vegetable crops in peach during the pre-bearing stage.

Best Intercrop for Fig (Anjeer)

Intercropping with nitrophilous crops with purslane was helpful in the positive effects increase in nitrogen that results in higher vegetative growth in Fig plants.

Best Intercrop for Plums

Crops like Black or Green Gram, Cluster Bean, and Pea can be used as intercrops in Plums.

Best Intercrop for Apricot

  • Intercropping is the way of extra income.
  • Apricot tree growing 2 to 4 years after that intercropping is starting.
  • Like Pea, Bean, Soybeans, and Cowpea are best with an Apricot tree.
  • Also, the main advantage is intercropping is to enrich the soil.

Best Intercrop for Kiwi

During the initial 5 years of Kiwi agriculture, intercropping with several vegetables and leguminous crops is useful.

Best Intercrop for Apple Ber

  • Ber or Indian jujube plant is one of the hardy minor fruit crops suitable for cultivation in arid conditions.
  • Under rain-fed conditions legume crops like Moong, Horse Gram, and Cowpea can be grown as intercrop.
  • Intercrops are taken up to 2 years. Mung and Guar is the best intercrop during Kharif for Ber. Methi is the best intercrop for Ber during Rabi season.


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