Difference Between Mixed Cropping and Intercropping System

Cowpea plants.

Crop refers to a plant of a particular kind, grown on a large scale in a proportion of area, for commercial purposes. For growing crops, a particular pattern or system is followed. Cropping system implies a sequence and management, practised in a piece of land for cultivating crops, over time. The two most commonly contrasted cropping systems are mixed cropping and intercropping. Mixed cropping implies a cropping technique in which different types of crops are cultivated together.

On the contrary, when two or more crops are cultivated simultaneously on the same piece of land, in a definite pattern, it is called as intercropping.

The given article excerpt might help you in understanding the concept and differences between mixed cropping and intercropping.

Comparison Chart

Meaning Mixed Cropping alludes to a method of cropping in which two or more crops are grown simultaneously in the same piece of land. Intercropping refers to process of cultivating crops wherein different types of crops are cultivated together in a specified pattern.
Pattern Does not follow any pattern of sowing seeds. Follows a definite pattern of sowing seeds.
Seeds Seeds are combined and sowed. Seeds are not combined before sowing
Fertilizer and Pesticide Same fertilizer and pesticide is applied to all the crops. Specific fertilizer and pesticide is applied to each crop.
Objective To minimize the risk of crop failure. To increase the productivity of the crop.
Competition Competition between the crops exist. Competition between the crops does not exist.

Definition of Mixed Cropping

Mixed Cropping is used to mean a cropping technique, in which two or more plants are planted simultaneously, in a particular piece of land. In this process, the components of the crops are intermingled in the available space in a way, that they grow together. It aims at decreasing the risk of crop failure, due to unfavourable weather conditions.

The crops are selected on the basis of their duration, water need, nutrients required, growth, root pattern, and so forth.

This system of cropping is practised by the farmers to avoid total crop failure, due to less rainfall. It restores soil fertility, as the products and remains of one plant assist in the growth of the other and vice versa. As a result, the overall crop yield increases.

The most common combinations used in mixed cropping are wheat and gram, groundnut and sunflower, wheat and peas, etc.

Definition of Intercropping

Intercropping connotes a system of sowing two or more crops at the same time in a particular piece of land, in a definite row pattern, so as to increase the productivity of crops sown. It is primarily practised by small farmers, who depend on rainfall, for better yield.

This process involves a specific row pattern, i.e. 1:1, or 1:2, meaning that one row of the main crop to one or two row of the other crops. In this process, those crops are combined, whose nutrient requirements vary with one another. It ensures optimum utilization of the nutrients supplied. Further, it prevents the spread of pests and diseases to all the plants belonging to a particular crop.

The common combinations used for intercropping purposes are soybean and maize, finger millet and cowpea.

Key Differences Between Mixed Cropping and Intercropping

The difference between mixed cropping and intercropping are described in the points given below:

  1. When two or more crops are sown and cultivated at the same time in the particular area, then this type of cropping pattern is known as mixed cropping. On the other hand, intercropping is a method of growing crops in which two types of crops are sown and cultivated concurrently, in the same land, in a definite pattern.
  2. Seeds are sown in separate rows in intercropping, in a specific sequence. In contrast, there is no such order followed in the case of mixed cropping.
  3. The seeds are combined properly and mixed in the field in the case of mixed cropping. Conversely, no such mixing is done in intercropping, before sowing them.
  4. In mixed cropping, same fertilizer and pesticide are applied to all the crops. In contrast, specific fertilizer and pesticide are applied to each crop in intercropping.
  5. Mixed cropping is employed to reduce the risk of crop failure due to adverse weather conditions. On the contrary, intercropping helps in increasing the productivity of the crop.
  6. In mixed cropping, there exists a competition between the crops sown, whereas, in intercropping, no such competition between the crops exist.


To sum up, intercropping is a better form of mixed cropping, and so all the crop combinations that are practised in mixed cropping can also be practised in intercropping. In mixed cropping, the yield of various crops is harvested and marketed in a mixed form. In intercropping, the harvesting and marketing of the crops are performed at a different time.