Strip intercropping seeks to capture the biological efficiency of intercropping in traditional agricultural systems and is compatible with agricultural equipment used in the U.S. This efficiency stems from complementary use of resources by constituent crops and is a function of crop selection, strip width and orientation, weed control, and other factors. Strip intercropping requires a high level of management; further, some reports suggest the gains and losses more-or-less balance in actual production situations. These questions are best addressed by the performance of strip intercropping as implemented by farmers in production situations.
Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) members have worked with Iowa State University agronomists to evaluate strip intercropping. For three years six farmers compared strip intercropping to field blocks of individual crops. The strip intercrop systems employed three crops: corn, soybeans, and small grains with a forage legume underseeding. The comparison systems, crops grown in sole-crop blocks, consisted of the same three crops on four farms (planting pattern comparison) or, on two farms, just corn and soybeans in rotation (systems comparison). Yields and field operations were recorded and entered in the Iowa State University Crop Enterprise Record System (CER) to derive gross profit, total production cost, and net profit for each crop component and for each cropping system on every farm. Strip intercropping net profit was generally greater than that in field blocks, and intercropping compared favorably with CER results obtained from corn-soybean rotations on other farms around Iowa. Land equivalent ratios (LER) were usually greater than 1.0, indicating satisfactory biological efficiency. Despite occasional problems, in this set of 18 site-years strip intercropping was associated with greater stability of net profit.