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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What is Mixed Farming?

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Mixed farming is a  system of farming in which a farmer conducts different types of agricultural practices together, on a single farm in view of increasing his income through different sources, is called as mixed farming. But, what is a farm? & what is Farming? Receiving the radiant energy of sun through crops and cattle is called as farming whereas, the place where these practices are done, is called as a farm. Here is one example: Rearing of cattle and growing fodder for them on a piece of land is called as farming. In other words, Mixed farming is the combining of two independent agricultural enterprises on the same farm.
Mixed farming system can be defined as –

(i).The use of a single farm for multiple purposes, as the growing of cash crops or the raising of livestock is called as mixed farming.

(ii).Farming involving both the growing of crops and the keeping of livestock is called as mixed farming.

(iii). A type of commercial agriculture concerned with the production of both crops and animals on one farm. Stock on a mixed farm used to be grazed on fallow land, but many modern mixed farms produce some, or all, of their fodder crops.

Mixed farming is a  system of farming in which a farmer conducts different types of agricultural practices together, on a single farm in view of increasing his income through different sources, is called as mixed farming. But, what is a farm? & what is Farming? Receiving the radiant energy of sun through crops and cattle is called as farming whereas, the place where these practices are done, is called as a farm. Here is one example: Rearing of cattle and growing fodder for them on a piece of land is called as farming. In other words, Mixed farming is the combining of two independent agricultural enterprises on the same farm.

In mixed farming a farmer can take up different types of practices for income generation while doing his main business of agriculture. Some of these practices that can be done together with the main agricultural practices are – poultry faming, dairy farming, bee keeping,  sericulture, Pisciculture, shrimp farming, goat and sheep rearing, piggery and agro forestry. Thus a farmer can raise his income manifold through carrying out different farming practices together. The greatest benefit from this type of farming is that if any one business does not pay desired benefit, the same can be recovered from the benefit of the other business.

B. Factors affecting Mixed Farming
A number of factors are there to affect the system of mixed farming. These are – quality of soil, quality of livestock, location of farm, topography, water facility, technologies used and economic considerations.

C. Merits of Mixed Farming System
The mixed farming system is the largest category of livestock system in the world which covers about 2.5 billion hectares of land, of which 1.1 billion hectares are arable rainfed crop land, 0.2 billion hectares are irrigated cropland and 1.2 billion hectares are grassland. This system of farming produces 92% of the world’s milk supply.

 Some of the important merits of mixed farming are mentioned below.

1.This farming system maintains soil fertility by recycling soil nutrients and allowing the introduction and use of rotations between various crops and forage legumes and trees, or for land to remain fallow and grasses and shrubs to become reestablished;

2. Mixed farming maintains soil biodiversity, minimize soil erosion, help to conserve water and provide suitable habitats for birds;

3. It makes the best use of crop residues. When they are not used as feed, stalks may be incorporated directly into the soil, where, for some time, they act as a nitrogen trap, exacerbating deficiencies. In the tropical semi-arid areas, termite action results in loss of nutrients before the next cropping season. Burning, the other alternative, increases carbon dioxide emissions; and

4. Mixed farming allows intensified farming, with less dependence on natural resources and preserving more biodiversity than would be the case if food demands were to be met by crop and livestock activities undertaken in isolation.

D. Methods applied in Mixed Farming System
There are a number of methods that are adopted in the mixed farming system. Some of these methods are being described below-

1.Food –Fodder Farming
In this method of mixed farming, the fodder crops are also grown along with other crops. Farmers can grow Sorghum, Pusa Giant Napier; berseem etc. as fodder crops for their cattle alongwith food crops. It is through this system that the availability of high variety of fodder is ensured for milch cattle while growing crops for production of grains, pulses, vegetables, oil and fruits etc.

2. Agroforestry System
According to the World Forestry Centre (ICRAF) 1993, - “Agroforestry system is a collective name for the land use systems and practices in which woody perennial plants are deliberately integrated with crops (and some times animals) on the same land management unit. The integration can be either in a spatial mixture or in a temporal sequence. There are normally both ecological and economic interactions between woody and non-woody components in Agroforestry". Again in the year 2003, the ICRAF further defined the agroforestry system as - a dynamic, ecology based, natural resources management system that, through the integration of trees on farms and in the agricultural landscape, diversifies and sustains production for increased social, economic and environmental benefits for land users at all levels (World Agroforestry Centre, 2003).According to another opinion -
Agro-forestry is sustainable land-management system, which increases the overall yield of the land, combines the production of crops (including tree crops) and forest plants or animals simultaneously or sequentially on the same unit of land and applies management practices that are compatible with the cultural patterns of local population (King and Chandler, 1978).
Here is another definition of agroforestry – “Agro-forestry is a land-use that involves deliberate retention, introduction, or mixture of trees or other woody perennials in crop / animal production field to benefit from the resultant ecological and economical interactions (Nair, 1984)”.

 In most simple terms - Cultivation of fast growing trees of greater importance along with crops- plants is called as agro-forestry. For this system, trees of specific species that have less canopy area and short life cycle are selected. Papaya and banana are two of such plants that occupy less area and provide fruits of good commercial value in a comparatively short time. Hence these two can be selected for the agro-forestry system of farming. Thus by agroforestry, a farmer can make maximum utilization of his land and can earn more money.
Scientists have been doing research on agroforestry systems since last two decades or more. Their researches have confirmed that agroforestry has been persisting with the Indian Culture since Vedic period or even earlier. It has been confirmed that agroforestry has more biological productivity, more commercial profitability, and more Ecological Sustainability than forestry or any of the modern cropping practices.

Following are some of the remarkable benefits from agroforestry systems -
  • Agroforestry Systems can control runoff and soil erosion, thereby reducing losses of water, soil material, organic matter and nutrients.
  • They can maintain soil organic matter and biological activity at levels satisfactory for soil fertility. This depends on an adequate proportion of trees in the system - normally at least 20% crown cover of trees to maintain organic matter over systems as a whole.
  • They can check the development of soil toxicities, or reduce existing toxicities - both soil acidification and salinization can be checked, and trees can be employed in the reclamation of polluted soils.
  • They utilize solar energy more efficiently than monocultural systems - different height plants, leaf shapes and alignments all contribute.
  • They can lead to reduced insect pests and associated diseases, and can be employed for the reclamation of eroded and degraded lands.
  • Agroforestry promotes biodiversity, improves wildlife habitats, invites vast varieties of birds to harbor and reproduce, and attracts insects that feed on insects. Besides these, the spreading tree biodiversity adds variety to the landscape and improves aesthetic sense.
  • These practices enhance the soil, water, air, animal and human resources of the farm.
  • The Agroforestry moderates and regulates microclimates.

  • Trees can probably increase nutrient inputs to agroforestry systems by retrieval from lower soil horizons and weathering rock. The nitrogen fixing trees and crop plants add nitrogen to the soil and feed nitrogen to plants that remain hungry of nitrogen.

  • The tree litter and pruning that are shed on ground can substantially contribute to maintenance of soil fertility after their decomposition in the soil. It leads to large increases in crop yields.
  • Agroforestry provides a more diverse type of farm economy and stimulates the whole rural economic systems, leading to more stable farms and communities. The production of multiple items reduces economic risks.
Agroforestry Combinations                                                                                                  
India has been divided in many agro-ecological regions. Different such regions practice different agroforestry combinations. Some common agroforestry combinations are listed below -
1. Agri-silviculture: trees+crops
2. Boundary plantation: tree on boundary + crops
3. Block plantation: block of tree+ block of crops
4. Energy plantation: trees+crops during initial years
5. Alley cropping: hedges+ crops
6. Agri-horticulture: fruit trees+crops
7. Agri-silvi-horticulture: trees+fruit trees+crops
8. Agri-silvipasture: trees+crops+pasture or animals
9. Silvi-olericulture: tree + vegetables
10. Horti-pasture: fruit trees pasture or animals
11. Horti-olericulture: fruit tree + vegetables
12. Silvi-pasture: trees+pasture/animals
13. Forage forestry: forage trees+pasture
14. Shelter-belts: trees+crops
15. Wind-breaks: trees+crops
16. Live fence: shrubs and under- trees on boundary
17. Silvi or Horti-sericulture: trees or fruit trees+sericulture
18. Horti-apiculture: fruit trees + honeybee
19. Aqua-forestry: trees + fishes
20. Homestead: multiple combination of trees, fruit trees, vegetable etc.
 Besides these common agro-forestry systems, there are many more component combinations followed in different agroecological regions of India.
3. Hortipastoral System
Growing grasses for cattle in the gardens of fruit trees; or growing fruit trees while rearing cattle- is called as Hortipastoral system of farming. It is an old and traditional farming system mainly adopted in dry areas. This system of farming is also adopted as an alternative land use system in certain northern regions of India. Farmers in these areas grow fruit trees like guava, mango, citrus, pomegranate, ber, aonla etc. They rear small cattle that graze on pastures. In modern times hybrid varieties of fruit trees are being grown in these areas and people inhabiting these areas earn money from selling fruits, milk, and other different products.
Key Words: mixed farming, farm, fodder, cattle, agricultural practices, soil quality, livestock, agroforestry, hortipastoral system, agro-ecological regions

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