Increasing land and water use efficiencies by intercropping | 44948
An International Journal

Agricultural and Biological Research

ISSN - 0970-1907
RNI # 24/103/2012-R1


Increasing land and water use efficiencies by intercropping summer legumes with corn in Egypt

Metwally AA, Abdel-Wahab TI, Abdel-Wahab SI

The per capita acre age of cultivated summer legumes is decreasing in Egypt.
Improving the efficiency of agricultural resources utilization is needed to
increase the output per unit area in marginal and sandy lands. Excessive
applied irrigation water and nitrogen (N) mineral fertilization are common
agricultural practices that often negatively influence soil and environmental
quality in crop production systems in Egypt. By intercropping, it should
help to raise total agricultural production under limited agricultural
resources. These have been a surge of interest in this work on intercropping
summer legumes with corn to explore their effects and improve their
productivities to increase farmer's income. Intercropping provides practical
solutions for increasing crop and livestock production, as well as, soil
productivity for rural and Bedouin farmers in Egypt and Arab communities
that live in marginal and sandy lands without any additional agricultural
resources. Peanut and soybean are excellent worldwide oil and protein crops,
meanwhile cowpea is an excellent worldwide protein crop. These legumes
are produced through intercropping in wide areas in many countries.
Intercropping should technically increase oil and protein production to
compensate oil and protein shortages in Egypt and the Arab world. Results
of 40 years (1979-2019) of scientific research on intercropping enabled
development of technological packages for intercropping summer legumes
with corn to realize high yield of both crops under different environments
in Egypt to increase crop and livestock production, as well as farmer's
income. A symbiotic relationship was found between summer legumes and
corn under intercropping culture which led to a reduction in N mineral
fertilization of the two crops and in turn reduced the environmental
pollution by preserving groundwater from the pollution. This relationship is
fixing of legume plants to the atmospheric N by rhizobia fixing bacteria that
live in legume roots which facilitate it to absorb by intercropped corn roots
and in turn increase the ability of corn plants to tolerate water shortage that
is characterized by these lands. Meanwhile corn plants protect summer
legume plants from high temperatures where these legumes are grown under
temperate regions, so intercropping reduced transpiration resulting from
legume leaves and increased the ability of summer legume plants to tolerate
water shortage in these lands. From 36 years ago, rural farmers intercropped
20377 hectare of soybeans with corn realizing 4.7 ton/hectare of corn grains
equivalent to the national average yield of solid corn, in addition to a bonus
of about two tons of soybean seeds which reflected positively on farmer's
income under different environments. In another study, field trials were
conducted under limited irrigation water by growing soybean with corn
realizing 3.65 ton/hectare of corn grains equivalent to 71% of corn grain
yield under solid culture, in addition to a bonus of about two tons of
soybean seeds in sandy soil. Also, field trials were conducted to raise land
usage under limited irrigation water by growing corn in peanut fields
realizing 2.78 ton/hectare of peanut pods equivalent to 86% of the national
average of yield of solid peanut under sandy soils, in addition to five tons of
corn grains which reflected positively on farmer's income. In another study,
a field trial was conducted to feed livestock by removing corn plants as fresh
fodder at 85 days from corn planting where it gave 17.70 ton/hectare of
corn fresh fodder +1.62 ton/hectare of peanut pods under intercropping
culture in sandy soil. The amount of N provided by summer legumes varied
according to legume species under sandy soil conditions. Soybean plants
gave intercropped corn plants an amount of N estimated at 20% of the
recommended N fertilizer rate of corn; meanwhile this amount reached
12.5% by intercropping cowpea with corn under limited N conditions.
Land equivalent ratio (LER) exceeding 1.10 in field trails and farmer fields
which reflected positively on famer's income. Intercropping corn in peanut
fields left 40% N and 30% phosphor (P) for the following winter crops
under sandy soil conditions. These are examples for the potential
contribution of intensive cropping systems to enhance agricultural (crop and
livestock) production without any additional Agricultural resources.

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