Crop plan refers to the organization of the different types of crops which are annually distributed on the Utilised Agricultural Area (UAA) of a farm. Cropping plan diversification can be devised at the scale of a field with the establishment of intercropping or at the farm scale with the diversification of plant species and families cropped. It relies on crop rotation, and they share some benefits.
Cropping plan diversification amounts to sowing plants of complementary species or families on a farmland (taking into account the organizational constraints) or on a field in order: (i) to limit the development of weeds, pests and pathogens: cropping plan diversification makes it possible to increase the diversity of agricultural landscapes. Therefore, from a spatial point of view, the more diversified the cropping plan, the more it will be difficult for pests to find their host crops. (ii) to optimize the supply of nitrogen via the use of legumes, i.e. nitrogen fixating plants: cropping plan diversification enables the increase of their frequency in crop rotations. Cropping plan diversification can be based on diversified crop rotations as well as on specific practices such as intercropping, direct seeding in a catch crop and agroforestry (see Agro-ecological Infrastructure).
The benefits of a diversification of cropping plans are measured in agronomic terms (productivity, soil quality, disease pressure, etc.) but also economic terms. Indeed, it makes it possible to secure the farmer’s incomes in case of bad harvest for one of the cultivated species. However, cropping plan diversification does have some difficulties, especially for intercropping. They face several constraints: (i) technical constraints during sowing or harvesting, (ii) constraints with medium-term planning, particularly with sales contracts and market opportunities. Cropping plan diversification is part of the development of agroecology, but the existence of these constraints and the uncertainty about its impacts, limit its development.