Mixed farming is when a farmer decides to combine two or more agricultural activities on the same farm. A typical case of mixed farming is the combination of crop cultivation with dairy farming or in more general terms, crop cultivation with livestock farming. Mixed farming may be treated as a special case of diversified farming. This particular combination of enterprises, support each other and add to the farmer’s profitability.

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Advantages of Mixed farming:

  • It enhances the productivity of the farm land
  • It increases the per capita profitability
  • Both farmings compliment each other.
  • Farmers can keep their fields under continuous production.
  • It enhances the productivity of the farmer also.
  • Reduce dependency on external inputs and costs. In the example of mixed cropping of animal husbandry and crop farming the crops and animals components can complement and support each other. For example, the crop farming gives feed to the animals, and in turn, the animals can supply fertilizers to the crop. So this reduces the need and cost of fertilization and animal feed. The animals (such as cattle and sheep) can also perform weeding which reduces the need for herbicides. CIPAV system from Columbia, for example, incorporates fuel generation where crop wastes are fed into a biodigester which then generates fuel for use in the farm (for running farm machinery and equipment). This reduces external fuel dependency.
  • A simpler mixed farming system is aquaponics where the fish wastes are useful as fertilizers for the vegetables (like lettuce) and the lettuce, in turn, clean the water for the fish. Another similar setup and benefit is rice-fish farming in northeast Thailand and China where fish (like tilapia and carp) are bred in the rice field waters.
  • Because the mixed farming system recycles much of its wastes, this reduce external inputs (like fertilizers and pesticides). This in turn reduce greenhouse gases emissions, whether directly or indirectly because less fossil fuels are required in the production and distribution of fertilizers and pesticides due to lower demand.
  • It stabilizes the income of the farmer because the farmer is not depending solely on one activity. Should one activity fail (due to low price or pests or diseases), the farmer can still get income from the other activities.
  • Increased biodiversity means less risks of pests and diseases outbreak in the farm. Outbreak usually occurs in monoculture where there is uniformity of species especially over a large area.

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fruit tree seedlings

Disadvantages of mixed farming:

  • Because a mixed farming system consists of multiple activities running simultaneously, this makes the control, monitoring, and maintenance of the farm more difficult than a monoculture where only a single activity is run.
  • Some times one activity may hinder the other activity.
  • For the same reason above, the farmer needs to be knowledgeable (or an expert) in more than one area as compared to a monoculture farmer. A mixed farming farmer is running several activities at once, there may be management problem.

Read: Pest and diseases affecting tomato farming and their control

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