Throughout history, farmers have developed innovative strategies for maximizing their space and efficiency. Raising both crops and livestock simultaneously or using one field for two crops are both methods employed to make the most of the resources available. There are several advantages and some disadvantages to each system, however.
Mixed farming is defined as farming involving two or more enterprises, says Tara Haat. For instance, raising livestock and crops simultaneously and in the same location can be explained as mixed farming. The manure produced by the livestock is used to produce better crops, and the crops can, in turn, be used to feed the livestock. This provides environmental balance and also supports a sustainable system.
Mixed farming is good for the environment since it's quite sustainable according to Thought Co. In addition, the crop-livestock farming system provides a variety of financial benefits. It offers a high return on the work of the farm since all products are utilized says Agriinfo. Feed and fertilizer do not need to be purchased to support the growth of crops or maintenance of livestock, saving money. The system provides work throughout the year, and it also offers a multi-pronged approach to income, so that if a crop does poorly in a given season, the farmer can fall back on income from sales of meat, milk or eggs.
One disadvantage to mixed farming is that a farmer will require more resources, such as tools and equipment, to care for livestock and crops simultaneously, than would a farmer engaged in just one such line of business, says FOA. Also, additional education is typically required to provide the background necessary to enable a farmer to maintain a mixed farm.
If you’re asked to explain mixed cropping or multiple cropping, you’ll be pleased to know the term represents a fairly simple concept. Mixed cropping, also known as polyculture or co-cultivation, occurs when two or more plants are grown together in the same field. The plants are interdigitated, meaning that they grow together. Not only does this provide environmental benefits, it saves space since different crops flourish at different times of the year and die off in others. If one plant has reached its peak size during its harvest season but another is still growing, farmers will use less space than if they had one field devoted to each crop separately. Other advantages to multiple cropping include an improved balance of soil nutrients and the suppression of weeds, diseases and pests. It also leads to an increase in overall productivity.
One key disadvantage to mixed cropping is the limitations it places on capacity. Though it is far more efficient, particularly in smaller spaces, you are only able to grow half as many of each crop when two share a field than if you had one field devoted to each. However, depending on the space available, farmers may find this to be an acceptable trade-off.