This Bulletin’s main FFC extension report is an introduction to the principles of service (cover) crops and intercropping.
Service crops, also know as cover crops and non-cash crops and the practice of intercropping are increasingly important tools to address multiple objectives in agriculture and horticulture, such as:
- Increasing cash crop yields and thereby profit
- Increasing soil organic carbon and boosting soil health
- Reducing nutrient losses to save fertiliser and protect water quality
- Weed, pest and pathogen management thus reducing pesticide use and cost
- Biological nitrogen fixation thus reducing nitrogen fertiliser costs
- Reducing erosion, keeping soil on the farm and out of waterways
- Managing soil moisture
Indeed there are so many different names, benefits, uses, approaches and options that it can be quite confusing for newcomers. This report is therefore a beginners guide to the principles of service crops and intercropping. It provides links to some of the key further sources of information. Indeed there is so much information on service and intercrops that sifting the wheat from the chaff is the main problem. This report therefore also takes a different approach to most other sources of information. Instead of listing species and descriptions, it looks ‘under the hood’ at the ecological foundations and mechanisms of service and particularly intercrops. Looking from this more fundamental perspective hopefully opens up the ability to conceive of new approaches and methods, rather than just replicating current techniques. It therefore does not give detailed prescriptions of individual service and intercrops as this is not possible at a high level, what works well in one location works badly in another – farming is variable – and there are plenty of other sources that do exactly that.