Difference Between Mixed Cropping and Intercropping

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: July 03, 2023


Difference Between Mixed Cropping and Intercropping

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Farmers around the world use different types of crop patterns and cropping systems for efficient production. Microclimate, the financial condition of the farmer, the type of topography and land capability are the factors that decide which type of cropping systems to be adopted.

A cropping system is a sequence or management of crops in a piece of land during one crop rotation. The cropping systems classify into monoculture, multiple cropping, and following. Monoculture is the conventional agriculture we all know. Multiple cropping includes parallel multiple cropping and sequential cropping. Mixed and intercropping come under parallel multiple cropping.

Mixed and intercropping are two of the most widely used and most-seen cropping systems across the country. This article will give you a better understanding of these two cropping systems.

Mixed Cropping Vs Intercropping

Mixed cropping is a technique in which there are no hard and fast rules. Various types of crops are grown together on the same piece of land.

On the other hand, intercropping involves growing two or more types of crops simultaneously on a single piece of land in a definite pattern. This is mostly used by small farmers to compensate if there are any crop failures due to untimely rainfall and pest attacks. Intercropping is the best way to improve crop yield in a small land area.

Difference Between Intercropping And Mixed Cropping in Tabular Form

Basis of ComparisonMixed CroppingIntercropping
AimTo compensate crop failureTo utilize the space between crop rows.
PatternNo specific patternCrops are planted in a definite pattern
SeedsSeeds are sown togetherSeeds are sown separately
FertilizersThesame set of fertilizers and pesticides are used for all cropsDifferent fertilizers are used for different requirements of crops.
Crop cycleThe crops grown to have almost the same maturity period and crop cycle.The crops differ in their crop cycles.
PurposeTo prevent the risk of crop failureTo improve crop yield.
Row arrangementThere is no row arrangementCrops are grown in rows like 1:1, and 1:2
Mechanical farmingMachines and vehicles are not allowed into the farmlandMechanical farming is possible.
Sowing timeSowing time is differentSowing time is the same
EmphasisAll the crops are given the same treatments and care.The main crop is looked over more.
Pest controlPest prevention becomes difficultPest control is easy

What is Mixed Cropping?

Mixed cropping AKA polyculture is a technique used to grow two or more crops on the same piece of land. All the crops are intermixed and share the same resources.

Mixed intercropping is a type of intercropping where farmers do not follow any row arrangement. It's suitable for rain-fed and dry land areas.

Due to unfavourable weather conditions or untimely bio attacks, a crop failure would be devastating tofarmers. Growing a second crop would not put them at a loss to neutralize the effect.

The choice of crops would base on their harvesting period, nutrient requirements, and root systems. There should be fertile soil and abundant water. Fertilizers compatible with all crops should be used. Heavy intercultural operations cannot be done with this technique.

Make sure the subsidiary crop, which is grown alongside the main crop, does not interfere with the main crop's growth, develops sooner or later than the main crop, is preferably a legume, and has different growth patterns and nutrient needs.

The subsidiary crop shouldn't have strict climatic needs and should have different rooting depths and ramifications.

E.g.: Maize with the green gram and pigeon pea.

Usually, cereals are grown as the main crop and legumes as the subsidiary crop.

In forestry, silvopastoral systems and agroforestry systems are examples of mixed cropping. In a silvopastoral system, an area might have timber trees and forage grass, providing us with both timber and forage for cattle. In the agroforestry system, shade-tolerant trees such as cocoa and coffee can be grown under larger timber trees. Permaculture is also an example of mixed cropping as it mimics the natural ecosystem but involves human interference for a certain time. In permaculture, various crops are mixed that might be agricultural or horticultural crops or forest species. Mixed timber trees are very feasible as it involves the growing of two or more timber-yielding species along with NTFP-producing trees.

Forest gardens are also a type of mixed cropping that involves growing grasses, shrubs, and trees together which is aesthetic and beneficial.

Types of Mixed crops

  • Mixed crops: seeds of different crops are mixed and sown in lines or broadcasted. It is unscientific.
  • Companion crops: the seeds are not fixed but sown in different rows.
  • Guard crops: the main crops grown in the centre with chances of similar pests should not be put together.


  1. Absence of row arrangement.
  2. It is suitable for dryland areas.
  3. Seeds are mixed in required amounts.
  4. To reduce the risk of crop failure.
  5. Crop combinations: groundnut with the sunflower, corn, oats with barley, maize, beans with cucurbits.
  6. Cattle are also reared along with mixed farming for manure.

Advantages of Mixed Farming

  1. Income from various sources.
  2. The risk of crop failure is diminished.
  3. Soil fertility is improved.
  4. As there is little space between crops, there's less chance of weed growth.
  5. The Yield is substantially more than in monoculture.
  6. Soil microbial activity is enhanced.
  7. Increase small farmers' income.
  8. Pest attacks are naturally averted.
  9. Mixed cropping does not involve many operations so it is very cost-effective. Mixed cropping is believed to be eco-friendly and boosts species richness. It supports local fauna.

Disadvantages of Mixed Cropping

  1. Wrong crop combinations can deplete soil nutrients.
  2. Mechanical farming is not supported.
  3. Some crops compete more for resources.
  4. If an insect attack happens once, it cannot be controlled easily.

What is Intercropping?

To increase crop yield, intercropping is a cropping technique in which two or even more crops are planted on the same piece of land at the same time in a specific row pattern.

The intensification of crops is in terms of both space and time. Farmers have to manage more crops on the same piece of land at a time.

Throe intercropping involves growing in different rows alternately.

The strip intercropping is growing in coupes that are big enough to harvest mechanically.

Relay intercropping is a technique in which crops are timed and one's lifecycle overlaps the others.

It is to be kept in mind that crop rotation in strip cropping has to be done carefully.

Contrary to popular belief, crop rotation refers to the idea of growing several crops in the same area at different times. Intercropping, on the other hand, calls for the simultaneous cultivation of various plant crops in the same area. The crops don't have to make good companions in the same manner for crop rotation.

Principles of Intercropping

  • The use of plants from the same family together is not recommended.
  • Find groups of crops that require similar amounts of water.
  • Choose crops with various root systems to prevent underground competition.
  • Think about how the crops' exposure to sunlight may affect one another. Although shade isn't necessarily a bad thing, the wrong crop may not benefit from it.
  • Crops with varied growth rates can be combined so that they won't interfere with one another at the most critical stages of development. This technique is known as time sequencing.
  • The best plants to add are legumes, accumulators, and green manures because they help to consistently revitalize the soil.
  • Include species that help repel insects.
  • The crops should complement each other.
  • In contrast to subsidiary crops, where plant populations may be increased or lowered depending on need, primary crops should maintain a standard plant population.
  • For it to be widely adopted, the planting method and management should be easy, time-saving, cost-effective, and profitable.

An example would be maize intercropped with peanuts, green or black gram, etc.

Six Types of Intercropping:

  • Parallel cropping: two crops that have different growth parameters and with zero competition. This method is proved to be more efficient. E.g. Wheat with mustard.
  • Companion cropping: this technique is one of the crops grown to provide nutrition and repel insects. E.g. Beans with carrots and cabbage.
  • Multi-storeyed cropping: to prevent competition for sunlight d different crops of different heights are grown. This group of crops resembles a multi-story building. Solar energy is used to its maximum potential. E.g. Corn with oats, barley and wheat.
  • Synergetic cropping: the yield of two crops combined would be more than that grown individually.
  • Trap Cropping

The intercropping technique helps capture pests to preserve the primary culture, as the name implies. Among other plants, mustard and marigold are common examples of trapping plants.

E.g. Sugarcane with mustard and onion.

Relay Intercropping

The second crop is planted after the first crop has reached its reproductive stage. The crops are grown one after the other.

E. g. Potato with wheat.

Advantages of relay intercropping:

  • The residual fertilizers can be used.
  • The cost of fertilizers is minimized.
  • The cost of cultivation is reduced.
  • Less burden on labour.

Alley Cropping

The second crop is grown in alleys between rows of the first crop.

E.g. silver Oak with ragi

Advantaged of Alley Cropping

  • If Subabul is grown with any cereal, Subabul provides nutrients to the main crop and also provides fodder to cattle.
  • Efficient utilization of resources
  • The cost of cultivation is less.
  • More labour is not required.

Types of Alley Cropping

  • Food cum fodder: this system provides both food and fodder for livestock.
  • Food cum mulch: provide food for humans and mulch to protect crops from harsh sunlight and to lock in moisture.
  • Food cum pole: provide food as well as firewood, timber, etc.

Characteristics of Good Intercrop

  • It should not act on the growth of the main crop.
  • It should not affect the yield of the main crop.
  • Mostly, an intercrop would be a legume.
  • Legumes fix atmospheric N2 and improve soil fertility.
  • There should be no root competition for improvement and should be different from the main crop in terms of habit, canopy development, and nutrient requirements.

Advantages of Intercropping

  • Nutrients Mustard soil is even used as a cereal and legume to absorb nutrients from different layers of soil.
  • The total biomass production per area would be increased because of the use of even the slightest space between crops for the second crop. Hence, reducing weed growth. The profit farmers acquire would be increased.
  • The quality and quantity of fodder are increased.
  • The income of farmers is spread through the year as the crops have different harvesting periods.
  • Employment opportunities for labour are provided.

Main Difference Between Mixed Cropping And Intercropping in Points

  • Mixed cropping is a type of cropping system in which two or more crops are planted simultaneously. Whereas intercropping results in two crops growing together in a specific pattern.
  • There is no definite pattern of growing crops in mixed farming which is contrary to intercropping.
  • Mixed cropping requires the mixing of all the seeds and intercropping does not.
  • Fertilizer application changes for each harvest in intercropping whereas in mixed cropping similar fertilizer is used for the whole lot.
  • The objective of intercropping is to increase crop yield and mixed cropping aims at mitigating the risk of crop failure.
  • Competition is not absent but less in intercropping when compared to mixed cropping.
  • In mixed cropping, the plants belong to different families and are diverse. The crops complement each other and often have a symbiotic relationship with each other in intercropping.
  • Maximizing land use efficiency, increasing productivity and enhancing resource utilization are a few of the objectives of intercropping. Whereas mixed cropping is mainly to reduce the risk of crop failure and ensure a stable yield.
  • Crops in mixed cropping do not have to be compatible with each other. Intercropping shows crops which have a symbiotic relationship with each other.


The intercropping type of system is said to be most efficient in terms of crop yield and manual labour. It can be modified according to the crop and land type which makes it the most common type for tolerable farming. Both systems are eco-friendly and do not actively deplete the soil nutrients and resources. Agriculture is one of the least productive ecosystems and these cropping systems make agriculture sustainable and ecologically desirable.




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"Difference Between Mixed Cropping and Intercropping." Diffzy.com, 2024. Mon. 10 Jun. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-mixed-cropping-and-intercropping>.

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