Cropping System referes to how various crops grown by the farmer are combined in his farm, that is, whether they are planted singly, one after the other or mixed together.
There are five major cropping systems, namely, monocropping, mixed cropping, continuous cropping, multiple cropping and rotational cropping.
- a) Monocropping : this is otherwise known as *sole cropping. It involves the growing of only one type of crop on a piece of land at any given time. This practice is common with large scale farmers who produce cash crops.
Advantages of Monocropping
- It helps the farmer to specialize in the production of a particular crop
- Identification and control of weeds, pests and diseases is easy
iii. It also encourages the adoption of mechanization
Disadvantages of Monocropping
- There is high risk of crop failure due to adverse weather, pest and disease attack.
- The land may be exposed to erosion since all plants are harvested almost at the same time
iii. The farmer may have to depend on other farmers for food crops
- The particular nutrient used by the crops becomes drastically depleted in the soil, hence necessitating constant application of fertilizer to replenish soil fertility.
- b) Mixed cropping : this is the practice where the farmer grows more than one type of crop on a piece of land at the same time. This is mostly practiced by small scale and subsistence farmers.
Advantages of Mixed Cropping
- i) It guards against crop failure since the farmer can easily fall back on other crops should one fail
- ii) The mixture of crops makes for a lower incedence of pests and diseases
iii) Soil nutrients are better utilized due to variations in the feeding habits of the crops; while some are shallow feeders, others are deep feeders.
- iv) It helps to Check erosion by providing adequate cover for the soil
- v) It saves labour
Disadvantages of Mixed Cropping
- i) There is usually competition among the crops for water, nutrients, sunlight and space
- ii) The system does not encourage mechanization
iii) It makes difficult for the farmer to determine the fertilizer requirements of the crops
- iv) Pest and disease control is usually difficult under this system
Mixed cropping may further be divided into three types as stated below :
- Inter-cropping: this involves the planting of two crop on a piece of land, however that last crop is harvest first. For instance, inter-cropping yam with maize.
- Inter-planting: this is the opposite of inter-cropping, meaning that the first crop is harvested before the second crop in this case. For instance, inter-planting maize with cassava.
- Relay cropping: this is where a crop is planted and harvested just before the second crop is planted and continues growing in the same year.
- c) Continuos cropping: This involves the continuous cultivation of a piece of land, year after year. The same crop or a mixture of crops is grown on a pice of land, year after year for five or more years. This is best suited for areas with very fertile soil.
Advantages of Continuous Cropping
- i) It is suitable for areas where there is scarcity of land
- ii) It is also adopted where environmental conditions limit the type of crops that could be grown
Disadvantages of Continuous Cropping
- i) Soil nutrients are easily depleted
- ii) Continuous cultivation could lead to destruction of soil structure, exposing the land to erosion
iii) May also result in heavy build-up of pests and diseases
- d) Multiple Cropping : This involves the growing of two or more crops on the same farm, in the same year. It is further divided into two, relay cropping and inter-cropping.
Advantages of Multiple Cropping
- i) Growing of different increases total income for a peasant farmer
- ii) There is maximum usage of land under this system
iii) Crop mixture provides a kind of insurance to the farmer against crop failure
- iv) Crop mixture discourages the build-up of weeds, insects and diseases associated with a particular crop.
- v) The crops serve as soil cover, preventing weed growth and erosion
Disadvantages of Multiple Cropping
- i) There is always competition for which can affect crop yield
- ii) Farm mechanization is difficult to achieve in this system
iii) Application of some agro-chemicals is also difficult due to the mixture of crop
- e) Crop Rotation : This is the growing of different crops on a piece of land, year after year in a planned sequence.
Advantages of Crop Rotation
- i) It facilites efficient and ecinonomic use of land from year to year
- ii) It helps to reduce risk of serious disease and pest infestation
iii) Reduces soil depletion due to variations in the feeding habits of the crops
- iv) Grasses and legumes growing on the land during fallow period help to reduce soil erosion
- v) In addition, the legumes also enrich the soil by addition of nitrogen
- vi) It is less laborious
Disadvantages of Crop Rotation
The major disadvantage of crop rotation is that it can lead to nutrient exhaustion in the soil and low productivity especially when not well planned.
Principles of Crop Rotation
- A crop with higher requirement for a particular nutrient should be followed by one with a lower requirement for the same nutrient.
- Shallow rooted crops should be alternated with deep rooted crops. This makes for a more effective use of soil nutrients and preserves the soil structure
- Crops requiring different cultivation practices should follow each other
- Crops attacked by similar pests and diseases should never follow each other
- A good rotation plan should include a fallow period of at least one year, during which the soil gets the chance to replenish lost nutrients.
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