Forage sorghum-legumes intercropping: effect on growth, yields, nutritional quality and economic returns
ABSTRACT Cereal-legumes intercropping is among the most economical and effective agronomic strategies to boost forage biomass production, nutritional quality and monetary returns. This review synthesizes the research findings on how intercropping affects productivity, quality, competitiveness and economic viability of sorghum-legumes mixed, row and strip intercropping systems under varied pedo-climatic conditions. Though component crops show yield reductions in row (additive and row-replacement series), mixed (seed blended crops) and strip intercropping systems, in general overall productivity per unit land area increases to a great extent. The significantly higher resource capturing with better utilization efficacy by intercrops in temporal and spatial dimensions helps explain their greater productivity. In addition, forage intercrops result in improved nutritional quality as legumes contain protein in double quantity than cereals. Cereal-legumes intercropping systems yield higher quantities of lush green forage with improved quality traits, which ultimately increase monetary benefits. Furthermore, legumes inclusion as an intercrop with cereals has the potential to serve as a nitrogen-saving strategy due to the biological nitrogen fixation (BNF) process. Moreover, cereal-legume intercropping systems are effective in reducing weed infestations and soil erosion by providing extended soil cover, as well as in increasing water use efficiency and improving soil fertility. However, despite a significant increase in overall productivity, component crops suffer yield losses in intercropping systems owing to competition for the finite divisible pool of growth resources. Thus, there is a dire need to optimize spatial and temporal arrangements in sorghum-legumes intercropping systems to achieve maximum productivity and economic returns.