A study of the potential of hedgerow intercropping in semi-arid India using a two-way systematic design
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The potential of hedgerow intecrropping with Leucaena leucocephala was explored on vertic Inceptisols over 4 years at ICRISAT Center, Patancheru, India. The study was conducted using a systematic layout involving different alley widths ranging from 1.35 to 4.95 m and with varying distances between hedge and crops. The alleys were cropped with alternate rows of sorghum and pigeonpea. Hedges composed double Leucaena hedgerows 60 cm apart were periodically harvested for fodder. Sole crops of all components and a sorghum/pigeonpea intercrop were included in all four replications of the study.
Starting in the second year, Leucaena was progressively more competitive to annual crops, causing substantial yield reduction. Competition (primarily for moisture) was most severe in narrow alleys and was greatest on pigeonpea.
The growth of Leucaena was not sufficient to compensate for reduced crop yields. Land equivalent ratios (LERs) calculated on the basis of grain yield of crops and Leucaena fodder yields showed that hedgerow intercropping (HI) was advantageous over sole crops only during the first two years using wide alleys, but disadvantegeous in the last two years. LERs calculated on the basis of total dry matter indicated only a small advantage for HI (13–17 percent) over sole crops in wider (>4 m) alleys. Average returns per year from HI exceeded those of the most productive annual crop system (sorghum/pigeonpea intercropping) by 8 percent in 4.05 m alleys, and by 16 percent in 4.95 m alleys. Fodder production during the dry season was 40 percent of the annual total in these alley widths. Thus hedgerow intercropping at 4–5 m alley width is not very attractive for farmers in semi-arid India, which has 600–700 mm of annual rainfall. There is a need to examine the potential of HI in wider alleys. The merits and limitations of the systematic design are discussed.
Key wordsAlley cropping fodder India intercrops Leucaena pigeonpea semi-arid tropics sorghum
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