Intercropping or polyculture- The Good and Bad

What is intercropping or polyculture?

Intercropping or polyculture is an agricultural practice where two or more different crops are grown together in the same field simultaneously or in a specific sequence. Unlike monoculture, which involves growing only one type of crop in a given area, intercropping promotes the cultivation of multiple crops within the same space.

In intercropping, the selected crops should have complementary characteristics, such as varying growth habits, nutrient requirements, root structures, and canopy structures. This allows for efficient use of resources, reduction of pest and disease pressure, and improved overall productivity.

Types of intercropping systems

There are different types of intercropping systems, including:

  1. Strip Intercropping: In this system, alternating strips of different crops are grown side by side. This method allows for easy management and maintenance.
  2. Mixed Intercropping: In mixed intercropping, crops are mixed randomly throughout the field, rather than in distinct strips. This provides a more diverse and integrated cropping system.
  3. Relay Intercropping: Relay intercropping involves planting a second crop into an already established first crop before it reaches maturity. This maximizes the use of space and resources.
  4. Agroforestry Systems: Agroforestry combines trees with agricultural crops or livestock, creating a more complex and integrated system that provides multiple benefits.

Food safety knowledge is for all!

Every consumer deserves to have high quality and safe food. …Read more!


The Safe Food

A Site Designed By Food Scientists For Everyone!

Access it here!

Advantages and disadvantages associated with intercropping or polyculture


  1. Increased Resource Use Efficiency: Intercropping allows for better utilization of resources such as sunlight, water, and nutrients. Different crops have varied growth patterns and root structures, which can lead to efficient use of available resources in the soil.
  2. Pest and Disease Management: Planting different crops together can disrupt pest and disease cycles, reducing the risk of widespread damage. Some crop combinations can act as natural pest repellents or attract beneficial insects that help control pests.
  3. Weed Suppression: Intercropping can help suppress weed growth. Dense planting of different crops can create a canopy that shades out weeds, reducing the need for herbicides and manual weeding.
  4. Enhanced Soil Health: By diversifying crop types, intercropping can improve soil fertility and structure. Different plants have varying nutrient requirements and root systems, which can prevent nutrient depletion and improve soil health over time.
  5. Increased Yield Stability: Intercropping can provide more stable yields compared to monoculture. If one crop fails due to unfavorable conditions, the other crops may compensate and still produce a harvest, reducing the risk of complete crop failure.


  1. Competition for Resources: Different crops grown together may compete for resources such as water, nutrients, and light. If not managed properly, this competition can result in reduced overall productivity.
  2. Management Challenges: Intercropping requires careful planning and management to ensure the compatibility of crops, appropriate planting densities, and suitable crop rotation. It may require additional labor and expertise compared to monoculture systems.
  3. Market Demand and Harvesting: Growing multiple crops together can present challenges in terms of market demand and harvesting logistics. If the market demand for specific crops is limited or if harvesting methods differ, it may be challenging to optimize profitability and efficiency.
  4. Allelopathy: Some crops produce chemical compounds that inhibit the growth of other plants. In intercropping, certain crop combinations may exhibit allelopathic effects, negatively impacting neighboring crops.
  5. Learning Curve: Adopting intercropping or polyculture requires knowledge and experience in managing diverse crop systems. Farmers may need to learn new techniques and adapt their practices to effectively implement intercropping methods.


Intercropping or polyculture has the potential to offer numerous benefits in terms of resource utilization, pest management, soil health, and yield stability. However, it also presents challenges related to resource competition, management complexities, market dynamics, and learning curves. Successful implementation requires careful planning, monitoring, and adaptation to local conditions and specific crop combinations.

Video on the effects of Intercropping or polyculture

Our Blog ↗

Read the latest from our blog

Ask a Question ↗

Ask a question and get answers from our community

Give Feedback ↗

We value your feedback.

AFS Desk
AFS Desk

Ask Food Scientists. Contact us through

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *