Intercropping contributes to a higher technical efficiency in smallholder farming: Evidence from a case study in Gaotai County, China

Yu Hong, Nico Heerink*, Minjuan Zhao, Wopke van der Werf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Intercropping entails the concurrent production of two or more crop species in the same field. This traditional farming method generally results in a highly efficient use of land, but whether it also contributes to a higher technical efficiency remains unclear. Technical efficiency refers to the efficiency with which a given set of natural resources and other inputs can be used to produce crops. In this study, we examined the contribution of maize-based relay-strip intercropping to the technical efficiency of smallholder farming in northwest China. Data on the inputs and crop production of 231 farms were collected for the 2013 agricultural season using a farm survey held in Gaotai County, Gansu Province, China. Controlling for other factors, we found that the technical efficiency scores of these farms were positively affected by the proportion of land assigned to intercropping. This finding indicates that the potential negative effects of intercropping on the use efficiency of labour and other resources are more than offset by its higher land-use efficiency when compared with monocropping.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)317-324
JournalAgricultural Systems
Early online date21 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019



  • China
  • Intercropping
  • Resource-use efficiency
  • Stochastic production frontier
  • Technical efficiency

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