Intercropping constitutes the traditional farming system practice used in various forms for maize production in the Yucatan peninsula. Although practiced for centuries, problems persist with competition for water, nutrients and light between crop species in traditional farming systems. Furthermore, little is known about farmers’ perceptions regarding changes to traditional maize-legume intercropping systems and their interest in novel crop adoption to increase yields in the system while maintaining the practice. The objective of this study was to investigate the maize-based traditional cropping system by assessing the underlying motives and concepts of farmers to practice intercropping in the Yucatan Peninsula and to examine the association between farmers’ level of knowledge about legumes and decisions to adopt intercropping and related practices therein. Farmer surveys were conducted in nine different regions of the Yucatan Peninsula. We selected Xoy, Euan, Muna, Mama, Tahdziú (Yucatan), Becal, Hecelchacam, Dzitbalché and San Antonio Sahcabchén (Campeche) which are representative of agroecological small-scale farming systems. We used a mixed methods case study analysis involving key informant interviews in eight associations of farmers. A sample frame with 73 farmers was selected in total during February 2021 and April 2021. Basic information such as land use, labor inputs, agricultural production and farmer’s perceptions regarding their intercropping systems were collected. Our research shows that the primary motives for intercropping were due to the ability of intercropping to offer a more diversified range of food for human and animal consumption, as well as to take advantage of different harvest periods that this practice offers. The majority of respondents were likely to favor the idea of introducing new legume species in their maize-based cropping systems. Factors such as the type of cropping system (i.e., intercropping or monocropping), access to water and level of knowledge about legumes influenced their decision to adopt intercropping in their farming systems considerably. This paper contributes to the knowledge on the current state and farmers’ perceptions of intercropping systems in the Yucatan Peninsula.

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Published in Sustainability, v. 13, issue 20, 11503.

© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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We want to thank the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) for their financial support through the Ph.D. scholarship.

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The data presented in this study are available on request from the corresponding author.