Multistoried cropping system : A sustainable land use approach for North eastern States

Abhimanyu Chaturvedi and DS Chonkar
A multi-storied approach system is often viewed as a sustainable alternative farming system particularly on small and marginal lands and it can provide greater economic return per unit area. Land cultivation through this system can maintain sustainable ecological balance besides efficient use of all-natural resources.
Agriculture/Horticulture/Silviculture based cropping systems especially Horti-Horti and Horti-Agri based cropping systems play a potential role in realizing more sustainable productivity and income.
Growing of intercrops, mixed crops, multiple crops and multi storied crops in perennial fruits (Mango, Litchi, Banana etc.) and plantation crops (coconut, Areca nut, Coffee etc.) produces more food products, ensuring sustainable income besides employment generation.
The system is more adaptable in tall growing perennials with compatible semi-perennial and annual crops. The practice of the multi storied cropping system is highly successful in plantation crops especially in Coconut, Areca nut, Coffee and Cashew for enhancing sustainable productivity and realizing higher income per unit area.
· Intensification of agricultural land use has led to the development of multi-storied cropping systems and crop mixtures.
· The introduction of a multi-storied cropping system ensures the use of the best combination of crop-tree intercropping to reduce the impacts of floods, landslides and droughts.
· Also, it ensures a regular income and employment throughout the year from harvest of different tree crops in different seasons.
· This system accommodates crops of different heights, canopy patterns and rooting systems to maximize the sunlight, nutrients and sustainable land use.
· Ecological balance and judicious and efficient use of all natural resources are the key points. In addition to this, multi-storied cropping systems are more amicable for horticultural crops as they include tree species, shrubs, climbers, annuals and shade loving or tolerant species.
· This system is highly successful in plantation crops especially in Coconut, Areca nut etc for enhancing sustainable productivity and realizing higher income per unit area.
Feasibility of Multi Storied Cropping System in Horticultural Crops
· Horticultural crops especially fruits and plantation crops are perennial in nature and have a long pre-bearing period (Mango, Coconut, Areca nut, Cashew).
· Crops have wider spacing and are tall growing e.g. Coconut (7.5 x 7.5 m, 15-20 m ht.), Areca nut (2.7 x 2.7, 15-20 m ht.)
· Canopy cover (Occupation of space) is very slow, took years together and more than 60-70% inter space is not effectively utilized (Mango, Coconut, Areca nut).
· Crop geometry and rooting pattern among perennials, semi-perennials and annual crops could be compatible without any adverse effect on main crops (Areca nut, Cocoa, Banana, Ginger, Turmeric and Pineapple).
· Crops are shade loving and tolerant to dripping of rain drops and high humidity (Banana, Cocoa, Turmeric, Ginger, Pineapple and Pepper).
· Crops are a good source of biomass and by-products which are easily recyclable and decomposable (Coconut, Areca nut, Tree spices, Turmeric, Ginger, Guava).
· Crops have different harvesting time and period which facilitates sustainable income (Banana, Areca nut, Pineapple, ginger and Turmeric).
· Suitability/tolerance to prevailing micro- climatic conditions (Black pepper, Pineapple, Tree spices, Marigold).
Table 1
List of fruit crop-based systems with their intercrops (Horti-Agri System)
SL. No. Crop Main crop with intercrop
1. Mandarin Mandarin + Ginger, Mandarin + Pea
2. Assam Lemon Assam Lemon + French bean
3. Banana Banana + Sweet Potato
4. Arecanut Arecanut + Black pepper + TeaArecanut + Black pepper + GingerArecanut + Black pepper + TurmericArecanut + Black pepper + Tapioca
Structure of Multi-Layer Cropping System
· Perennial crops (arecanut, Coconut, Pineapple) and annuals/biennials (Root Crops: Taro, Yam, Sweet Potato etc.) are inter planted to maximize productivity and income.
· This is most applicable where farms are small and the system needs to be intensive.
· In this particular area, Arecanut, Coconuts are usually planted first. When they reach a height of 4.5 m (after 3-4 years), bananas, papaya are planted underneath. Black pepper may also be part of the system. After sufficient space, has developed at ground level in about three to four years, root crops are planted. At full establishment, the system develops different layers: Arecanut (tallest) followed by banana, papaya (middle), root crops and pineapple (lowest).
· Multi-tier cropping system involved a combination of plants with various morpho-phenological features to maximize the natural resource use efficiency and enhanced total factor productivity.
· Horticulture crops particularly fruit and plantation crops have self-sustainable systems where solar energy can be harvested at different heights, soil resources are used efficiently and can increase cropping intensities.
· The system consists of three main components viz., main crops, filler crop and intercrops which occupy three different tiers in space of the production system.
· To ensure sustainable productivity and high returns from underutilized and stressed lands and to improve the soil characteristics, a multi-storey cropping system has been found successful in tropical rainforest. Multi storey cropping system in horticulture is found to be a perspective approach for sustainable productivity in fruit crops (Mango, Litchi, Amla) and plantation crops (Coconut, Areca nut, Coffee, Cashew by which natural resources are utilized efficiently to enhance productivity of main crops (15-20%) and high revenue realization per unit area (50-90%).
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