Cereal+Legume Intercropping: An Option for Improving Productivity and Sustaining Soil Health

  • Jayanta Layek
  • Anup Das
  • Tarik Mitran
  • Chaitanyaprasad Nath
  • Ram Swaroop Meena
  • Gulab Singh Yadav
  • B. G. Shivakumar
  • Sandeep Kumar
  • Rattan Lal


Intercropping is the system of simultaneously growing two or more crops on the same land area with a definite row arrangement. However, it is very much important to ensure that component crops do not compete with each other for space, moisture, nutrients, and solar radiation. Cereal+legume intercropping provides a greater scope for minimizing the adverse impact of moisture and nutrient stress in addition to improving system productivity and soil health. Researchers reported significant enhancement of system productivity in intercropping besides supplying diversified food. By improving chemical, biological, and physical environment in the soil, legumes can check the declining productivity of cereal-based cropping system. It is important to identify the best intercrops and to assess appropriate doses of nitrogen (N) for the cereal components in intercropping systems considering the sparing effect of biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) from the leguminous component. A number of indices such as land equivalent ratio, crop equivalent yield, relative crowding coefficient, competition ratio, aggressivity, actual yield loss, etc. have been suggested to evaluate the competition between cereal and legume intercrops and advantage of intercropping compared to sole cropping. Although there are some constraints for practicing cereal+legume intercropping systems in large scales like limited availability of good-quality seeds, biofertilizers, and technical and proper scientific knowledge for the complex intercropping system, there is a very good potential to increase the productivity and profitability from resource-poor agricultural systems by adopting this system besides reducing farmers’ risks and improving the soil quality in the long term.


Biological nitrogen fixation Cereal Legume Nitrogen Soil quality Yield 





Actual yield loss


Biological nitrogen fixation


Crop equivalent yield


Competition ratio


Greenhouse gas


Intercropping advantage


Leaf area index


Land equivalent ratio


Monetary advantage index




Northeast region


Relative crowding coefficient


Recommended dose of fertilizer


Recommended dose of nitrogen


Soil organic matter


Water use efficiency


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jayanta Layek
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anup Das
    • 3
  • Tarik Mitran
    • 2
  • Chaitanyaprasad Nath
    • 4
  • Ram Swaroop Meena
    • 5
  • Gulab Singh Yadav
    • 6
  • B. G. Shivakumar
    • 7
  • Sandeep Kumar
    • 8
  • Rattan Lal
    • 9
  1. 1.Division of Crop ProductionICAR Research Complex for NEH RegionUmiamIndia
  2. 2.Carbon Management and Sequestration CenterOhio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  3. 3.Division of Crop ProductionICAR Research Complex for NEH RegionUmiamIndia
  4. 4.ICAR-Indian Institute of Pulse ResearchKanpurIndia
  5. 5.Department of AgronomyInstitute of Agricultural Sciences (BHU)VaranasiIndia
  6. 6.Division of Crop ProductionICAR Research Complex for NEH RegionLembucherraIndia
  7. 7.Southern Regional Research StationIndian Grassland and Fodder ResearchDharwadIndia
  8. 8.Department of AgronomyCCS Haryana Agricultural UniversityHisarIndia
  9. 9.Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, SENR/FAESThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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