cropping systems in agriculture

types of cropping systems. Identify and explain the different cropping systems. Give the advantages and disadvantages of each cropping system

cropping systems refers to the specific approach or method used in agriculture to cultivate and manage crops. It encompasses various practices and techniques that are employed to optimize crop production while taking into account factors such as soil type, climate, available resources, and market demand.

Types Of Cropping Systems

Different cropping systems are used worldwide to meet the diverse needs of agriculture. Here are some common cropping systems:

  1. Monocropping: Monoculture is a system where a single crop is grown on a particular piece of land year after year. While this can lead to high yields of a single crop, it can also be susceptible to pests and diseases and can deplete soil nutrients over time. Crop rotation and soil management practices are often necessary to maintain soil health in monocropping systems.
  2. Crop Rotation: Crop rotation cropping systems involve planting different crops in a specific sequence on the same piece of land over multiple seasons or years. This helps break the life cycles of pests and diseases, improves soil fertility, and reduces the need for chemical inputs. For example, rotating between legumes and grains can enhance nitrogen levels in the soil.
  3. Intercropping: Intercropping involves growing two or more crops together in the same field at the same time. This can provide several benefits, such as efficient use of space, enhanced pest management, and improved nutrient cycling. For example, planting nitrogen-fixing legumes alongside other crops can enrich the soil.
  4. Polyculture: Polyculture is similar to intercropping but involves cultivating a diverse range of crops in the same field. This approach can mimic natural ecosystems and promote biodiversity, which can enhance resilience to environmental changes.
  5. Agroforestry: Agroforestry cropping systems combine the cultivation of trees or shrubs with crops or livestock on the same piece of land. It offers various benefits, including improved soil health, increased biodiversity, and the production of multiple products (e.g., fruits, timber) from the same land.
  6. Alley Cropping: In alley cropping, rows of trees or shrubs are planted between rows of crops. This provides shade, windbreak, and other benefits to the crops while allowing for the simultaneous production of tree products.
  7. Dryland Farming: Dryland farming is practised in arid or semi-arid regions where water availability is limited. It involves selecting drought-resistant crop varieties and implementing water conservation techniques like mulching and rainwater harvesting.
  8. Irrigated Farming: In irrigated cropping systems, water is artificially supplied to the crops through methods such as drip irrigation, sprinkler irrigation, or flood irrigation. This ensures a reliable water supply for crop growth but requires access to water sources and appropriate infrastructure.
  9. Organic Farming: Organic cropping systems avoid synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, relying on organic matter, compost, and natural pest control methods. These systems focus on sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural practices.
  10. Precision Farming: Precision farming, also known as precision agriculture, involves the use of technology and data-driven approaches to optimize crop management. This includes the use of GPS, sensors, and other tools to monitor and manage crops more efficiently, reducing waste and improving yields. read more here

The choice of cropping system depends on various factors, including local conditions, the goals of the farmer, environmental concerns, and market demands.

The way a farmland is cropped varies from one farmer to the other system adopted may depend on the available farmland, the type of agriculture (whether subsistence or commercial), the need of the farmer and so on.

 farming systems

Why do we study types of cropping systems in agriculture

It is worthy of note that farming practice is not static as such it is evolving. So in this article, we shall consider the most widely practiced farming system the world over
The following are the cropping systems commonly practised by farmers.

Mono-cropping types of cropping system

This is the growing of only one type of crop (such as maize) on a piece of land. It could be for a season or for several years as in plantation farming. types of cropping system

The system is also termed sole cropping. Most often this type of farming practice involves mechanization.

Advantages of mono-cropping types of cropping system of agriculture

1. It makes possible the use of machines in farm operations. read agricultural mechanization here.

2. Mono-cropping leads to higher productivity per hectare,

3. It also leads to specialization among farmers.

4. The control of weeds is easy. This is because herbicides can be used

5. It employs more labour thereby leading to a greater harvest

Disadvantages of the mono-cropping system of cropping

1. It is risky because crop failure arising from pest, diseases or weather conditions will result in a total loss of income to the farmer for that year.

2. The system encourages the rapid spread of pests and diseases on the farm.

3. Labour may not be efficiently utilized throughout the year.

4. It does not afford the farmer a variety of crops. types of cropping system

5. Most often it requires high capital investment.  read more about agricultural loans here

6. It can’t be practised within an area where there is a community farming

more on the land tenure system

2. Mixed cropping types of cropping systems

This is also called multiple cropping because it involves the planting of more than one type of crop on the same farmland in one planting season

. It is very common under subsistence agriculture and in are where farmlands are limited. Under mixed cropping, the farmer could practice any of the following:

Inter-planting types of cropping systems

: This is the growing of two crops together on the same land. The crop which was planted first is also harvested first while the one planted last remains on the plot to be harvested later.

An example is the growing of maize, cassava, groundnut, melon, yam and okra together on the same piece of land in one planting season. Maize, which is usually planted first, is also harvested first. Maize is therefore said to be inter-planted with yam.

(b) Inter-cropping: This is when two crops are grown together with the crop planted last being harvested first. Usually, the c planted last has a shorter lifespan than the one planted first, an example is the planting of melon after the yam has been planted The melon will be harvested first while the yam continues on the plot. Yam is therefore said to be intercropped with melon. types of cropping system


1. It affords the farmer a variety of crops.

2. It serves as insurance against the failure of one type of crop.

3. It minimizes the spread of diseases and pests on the farm.

4. It enables the crops to make efficient use of soil nutrients.

5. The ensures efficient utilization of labour throughout the year.


1. It does not encourage the use of machines on the farm.

2. It may lead to rapid exhaustion of soil nutrients if legumes are not included.

3. It is labour-intensive.

4. Pests and diseases of crop agents may persist on the farmland. This is because there are always food and alternative hosts for them.

3. Continuous cropping types of cropping system

This is the practice of putting farmland under cultivation continuously that is from year to year. It may take any form: this type of farming practice usually leads to soil loss of nutrients, becoming acidic

(a) Annual cropping:

Planting annual crops which are replaced after harvesting. This means the land is cleared, tilled and cropped every season. read more on pre-planting operations here. This is common where land is scarce. this type of farming is mostly practised in the southern parts of Nigeria. types of cropping system

(b) Permanent cropping:

This involves planting and maintaining the crops, usually permanent crops continuously on the farmland, usually in plantations. read cultural practices in crop production


1 It reduces the cost of land preparation after the initial clearing and tilling.

2 It enables the farmer to construct permanent structures such as storage structures on the farm.

3 It can be practised where land is scarce.


1. The fertility of the soil is easily exhausted.

2. It leads to the destruction of soil structure. read about land degradation here

3. It encourages soil erosion.

4. Yields me normally reduced with increasing years of cropping.

5. It encourages the build-up of crop pests and disease agents.

6. It required a high amount of money to keep the land fertile and productive. you can read about soil fertility management here

4. Crop Rotation type of cropping systems

This involves the planting of different types of crops in different plots on farmland during one season; and at the beginning of the next season, the crops are changed from their respective plots, while following a definite order or sequence. types of cropping system

The system combines mixed cropping with continuous cropping and is mainly practised by institutions of learning.

For crop rotation to be successful, certain principles must be followed

Principles of Crop Rotation types of cropping systems

(a) The same type of crop should not be allowed to follow each other on the same plot. For example, maize should not follow maize.

(b) Crops that belong to the same group should not also follow each other on the same plot, e.g. cassava should not follow yam, or to follow maize.

(c) Crops that have deep roots like yam and cassava, read more about the classification of crops here.. should be followed with those that have shallow roots such as maize and groundnut.

(d) Crops that consume a lot of nitrogen such as the cereal group should be followed by those that add nitrogen to the soil such as maize and the legume group,

(e) Crops likely to be affected by the same disease or pest should not follow each other on the same plot. The number of crops involved in the rotation will determine the type of rotation. Therefore, there could be a two-year, three-year, or four-year crop rotation.

How to Design a Four-Year Crop Rotation

(a) Divide the farmland into four plots.

(b) Choose the crops to cultivate.

(c) Plant one crop on each plot, making sure the principles guiding the adoption of the system are adhered to.

(4) At the end of one season, shift the crop from plot B to A, C to B, D to C and A to D

(5) Follow this sequence until the fourth year is reached.


Plot A

Plot B

Plot C

Plot D





Yam and Melon




Yam and Melon




Yam and Melon




Yam and Melon





1. It helps to maintain soil fertility.

2. It makes efficient use of soil nutrients.

3. The farmer has access to a variety of crops.

4. It minimizes the spread of diseases and pests and helps to check weeds

5. It reduces soil erosion.

6. It leads to efficient utilization of labour.

7. It is a good practice where land is scarce.


1. It is labour-intensive.

2. Crop yields may decrease with years except additional manures or fertilizers are applied.

3. It leads to the destruction of soil structure which may facilitate soil erosion.

I want to reiterate here that the various cropping systems listed in this article are not the final list of the various farming practices, so as read this article and remember any not listed here please feel free to leave your comment

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