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Revisiting intercropping indices with respect to potato-legume intercropping systems

Intercropping is gaining popularity in developing countries as a viable strategy for diversifying cropping systems to ease food insecurity, given that arable land is shrinking, and demand for food crops is increasing due to rapid population growth. A field experiment was conducted in 2015 and 2016, to examine the biological and economic viability of two intercropping systems (potato-dolichos and potato-bean planted in two potatoes to legume population density ratios: 1.1:2 and 1: 2.4) and their corresponding pure stands. Intercropping systems were also evaluated based on five competition indices: relative crowding coefficient (K), aggressivity (A), competitive ratio (CR), intercropping advantage (IA) and actual yield loss (AYL). Although biological feasibility revealed that intercropping decreased the yield of intercrops compared with respective monocultures; the economic assessment of different cropping systems indicated that intercropping resulted in a higher remuneration (gross and net income) than pure stands. Intercropping potato with a high population of legume (in 1: 2.4 patterns), resulted in not only higher system productivity but also potato equivalent yield compared to 1.1:2. Intercropping proved to be advantageous with AYL decreasing with increasing proportion of the legumes, whereas IA increased as the population of legumes increased. With regard to competition between the intercrops, the potato was more aggressive (A of potato was positive, and its CR > 1) in all cropping systems, and it dominated over legume (that had negative A values and CR < 1). Aggressivity and dominance capacity was higher in 1: 2.4 than 1.1:2 series. These results suggest that potato-legume intercropping may provide viable intensification options, especially for smallholder farmers.