The way we currently produce food and other agricultural products is under threat from the changing climate, depleted biodiversity, and declining availability of natural resources used to boost productivity. We know that farming systems need to shift towards co-delivering for nature and net zero, but this needs to happen without compromising production and food security.
Farming faces huge challenges from these pressures, while coping with climate variability, degradation of prime agricultural land, and restrictions on pesticide use. In this blog, we try to help with what farmers can do in the short-term to address these multiple challenges.
Intercropping - where two or more crop species are grown simultaneously on the same piece of land – could provide one solution: intercrops increase diversity at the scale of entire fields and have the potential to boost production with fewer inputs. There are many ways in which intercropping can be practiced, ranging from mixtures harvested together for use as ‘whole crops’ or for separation post-harvest, to relay intercrops grown together but harvested on separate dates, through to unharvested companion crops supporting the growth of the main cash crop. The harvested products are often used for feed, biomass, or food but could include novel co-products with other uses in the future.