Crop and animal integrated farming: How does it work?

Goat grazing. (Photo by Pixabay)


Integrated farming, sometimes called mixed farming, is a form of intensified farming system where the plant and animal component interacts interdependently. Integrated farming is already an old practice of many farmers where they plant crops and simultaneously raise animals. By raising animals and planting crops at the same time, farmers maximize the utility of the farm area and also provide two sources of income. Moreover, in integrated farming, wastes are recycled in the system making farming sustainable. Here are some of the common integrated crop and animal combinations.

Crops and livestock

Goat grazing. (Photo by Pixabay)

In integrated farming of crops and livestock, crop residues are used for animal feed consumption. Some farms practice feeding the corn stalks after the fruits are harvested. Excess corn stalks are also used to make silages or preserved fermented fodder for animals during the dry season. The livestock, on the other hand, produces manure that serves as fertilizer for the crops. Grazing cows, goats, and sheep are used for weed management when integrated with trees and tall shrubs.

Crops and vermiculture

Worms are used for the production of vermicompost from organic wastes. (Jonathan Kemper/Unsplash

Vermiculture refers to cultivating worms to decompose organic matter to produce vermicompost. Vermicompost is the nutrient-rich output from the worms that is used as fertilizer for crops. Vermicomposting is a sustainable way of producing organic fertilizer as it does need any chemical components and the crop residues are recycled back into the soil.Aquaculture

Fish raised in tanks to produce natural fertilizer for the plants in aquaponics (Mbrickn/ Wikimedia Commons)

The word aquaculture comes from hydroponics- soilless farming, and aquaculture – fish farming. In an aquaculture system, the waste from the farmed fish supplies nutrients for the plants grown in hydroponics. Because the nutrients needed are already supplied by the fish, additional chemical fertilizer is not necessary thus reducing the cost of production.

Rice and ducks

Ducks in the rice field eat snails that damage the rice. (Bernard Hermant/Unsplash)

Rice and duck farming is one of the oldest farming practices for weed and snail control. Weeds are hard to manage once the rice starts to grow tall, which makes ducks the best pest control because they can go beneath the rice plant to nibble small growing weeds and snails. Additionally, the manure from the ducks serves as fertilizer for the rice

Fruit-bearing plants and bees

Bees help pollinate crops to increase fruiting and yield. (Dominik Scythe/Unsplash)

There are a lot of crops that rely on pollination for them to bear fruits such as tomato, squash, cucumber, pepper, coffee, corn, and many more. Keeping bee colonies around these crops increases the rate of pollination, hence, also increasing their yield. Alongside cropping fruits and vegetables, bee farming produces by-products like honey, beeswax, and propolis that can be another source of income.

Integrated farming has been proven to be another form of sustainable farming to increase the productivity of farms by increasing the yield per unit area. It increases profitability by decreasing production costs and increasing sources of potential income. And, finally, it minimizes environmental pollution by reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

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