Intercropping with sugarcane has been found as more beneficial to the farmers as it can boost total crop production per unit area compared to other crops.
Systematic intercropping of potato, onion, lentil, mung bean, garlic and some other winter crops, vegetables and spice help increase sugarcane yield compared to sole-cropping.
Quoting the field-level research findings and farmers' views the sugarcane researchers and agriculturists revealed this while talking to BSS in Rajshahi on Saturday.
Dr. Kuasha Mahmud, Director (Research) of Bangladesh Sugar Crop Research Institute (BSRI) at Ishwardi, said that inter-cropping not only increases total crop production but also helps improve soil health and fertility with little or no negative effect on sugarcane yield and quality.
Terming the sugarcane as an industrial crop of Bangladesh, he said its farming is being gradually pushed into low-lying marginal lands due to high demand of cereals and vegetable crops. Besides, the national average yield is far below than potential yield.
He said that the existing sugarcane cultivation would not be economically viable without inter-cropping which always reduces the demand for extra land to produce the above crops as well as save foreign currency. So, the method must be mandatory for the sugarcane farmers.
Abdur Rouf, a farmer of Arani village under Bagha Upazila in the district, has cultivated onions along with sugarcane on his 16 decimals of land this season.
He said sugarcane requires around 12 months from planting to harvesting. Earlier, no other crop was planted during this time in the sugarcane field.
But now times have changed. After receiving the training from the research centre, he has cultivated the Bari-4 variety of onion, potato and kalai (pulses) on the sugarcane field. From the 16 decimals of land, he has got 20 maunds of onion as an additional crop worth Tk 12,000.
In the case of intercropping of other crops, a small amount of fertiliser and additional labour was required, said Shyamal. But in intercropping with sugarcane nothing extra was needed, and this was good news for farmers, he added.Anwar Hossain, another farmer of Meerganj village, said he had been cultivating 26 varieties of spices and vegetables with sugarcane on the same fields for the last three years. This time he has also got success in onion cultivation.
He said cultivating only sugarcane was not profitable. For this reason, he had left sugarcane cultivation. But after receiving technical training from the research centre, he had now cultivated onions on sugarcane fields. He is expecting at least 40 maunds of onion per bigha of land.
Dr. Md. Shamsur Rahman, Chief Scientific Officer of BSRI, said they have, so far, developed more than thirty production packages of different winter crops suitable as intercrop with sugarcane but the technologies could not be expanded to the farmers' level due to lack of proper initiatives.
To overcome the problems, BSRI developed a series of high yielding varieties of sugarcane and production technologies especially inter-cropping packages for sustainable production under particular agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions for the poor farmers. It involves intensive crop cultivation in terms of effective use of space and time. It plays an important role in promoting the development of agriculture in many countries of the world especially in densely populated developing countries with scarce land reserves.
In many cases, it gives higher total production, monetary returns and greater resource use efficiently and increases land productivity by almost 60 percent.
It often gives higher cash return and increases total production per unit area and time than mono-cropping.
Inter-cropping also increases nutritional quality of diet for the farm family allowing better control of weeds and increasing land equivalent ratio as much as 78 percent and reduces soil erosion.No adverse effect of intercropping vegetables on sugarcane yield was found even in some cases sugarcane yield was found higher than inter-cropped condition in single row but it was almost identical in paired row system. Yields of inter-crops were higher in paired rows. It was concluded that large scale intercropping of different vegetables with sugarcane in paired row could play a vital role in increasing national production of those crops without involving any extra land, Dr. Md. Shamsur Rahman added.