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Sustainability 2012, 4(10), 2550-2565; doi:10.3390/su4102550

How to Overcome the Slow Death of Intercropping in the North China Plain

1,* , 1
1 Institute of Farm Management (410c), Universität Hohenheim, 70593 Stuttgart, Germany 2 College of Agricultural Resources and Environmental Sciences, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100094, China 3 Institute of Crop Science (340a), Universität Hohenheim, 70593 Stuttgart, Germany
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 30 August 2012 / Revised: 21 September 2012 / Accepted: 25 September 2012 / Published: 3 October 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Adaptation or Extinction)
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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 intercropping; sustainable agricultural system; adaptation; extinction; agricultural mechanization; China
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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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.

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