The plant subsystem

One of the most common practices in tropical ecosystems is intercropping, i.e. the growing of two or more crops in the same field at the same time. A

great deal has been written on intercropping and its effects in terms of relationships between biodiversity and function (e.g. Francis 1986; Vandermeer 1989). Intercrops are known to often, although not invariably, produce higher yields than sole crops (Figure 11.4; Trenbath 1976). Intercrops are also thought to reduce farmer's risk (Rao and Wtlley 1980), yet this function too has been questioned (Vandermeer and Schultz 1990). Depending on the particular intercrops and the site involved, intercropping may promote enhanced nutrient utilization, pest control, weed control and other agricultural functions, although it is not possible to generalize that any such functions are universally a consequence of intercropping. As with other agroecosystems, biodiversity's function is system-dependent. Most experiments have therefore been limited to strict one-on-one interactions in relation to the trade-offs between yield and competition for resources. Within farms, however, these interactions occur within a much more heterogeneous environment and a broader context of agricultural goals on the part of the farmer.

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