Abstract: Intercropping has a strong potential to counteract the severe degradation of arable land in the North China Plain (NCP). However, a rapid decline of intercropping can be observed in the last decades. The present paper investigates the reason for this development and suggests solutions on how to adjust intercropping systems to fit modern agriculture. Firstly, the developments of socioeconomic conditions for farming were assessed, analyzing the statistical yearbooks of the seven provinces of the North China Plain. Secondly, a survey was conducted in the study region to understand the current state and future of intercropping systems. The investigations revealed that, due to limited off-farm income possibilities in the past, intercropping has been a viable solution to intensively use the limited land resources per farm household. However, a shift of rural laborers into other sectors has recently been observed. Thus, decreasing importance of income from agriculture and increasing labor costs are heralding the slow death of labor-intensive intercropping systems. Two possible solutions are discussed in the paper. Either the traditional row-intercropping systems can be transformed into strip-intercropping systems that can be mechanized using existing machinery; or, new machinery has to be developed that enables the mechanization of the traditional row-intercropping systems.
Keywords: intercropping; sustainable agricultural system; adaptation; extinction; agricultural mechanization; China
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Feike, T.; Doluschitz, R.; Chen, Q.; Graeff-Hönninger, S.; Claupein, W. How to Overcome the Slow Death of Intercropping in the North China Plain. Sustainability 2012, 4, 2550-2565.
Feike T, Doluschitz R, Chen Q, Graeff-Hönninger S, Claupein W. How to Overcome the Slow Death of Intercropping in the North China Plain. Sustainability. 2012; 4(10):2550-2565.
Feike, Til; Doluschitz, Reiner; Chen, Qing; Graeff-Hönninger, Simone; Claupein, Wilhelm. 2012. "How to Overcome the Slow Death of Intercropping in the North China Plain." Sustainability 4, no. 10: 2550-2565.