Crop rotation is a critical element of all production systems as it supports the main mechanisms for creating high-quality soils, successful pest control, and many other useful things on which the final yield and the quality of the product depend.
What is crop rotation? Is it effective?
Crop rotation is a farming practice that involves systematically changing the type of crops grown in a specific field over different seasons or years. It helps improve soil health, reduce pest and disease pressure, and optimize crop yields.
By alternating different crop species, the nutrients utilized by one crop can be replenished by the next, preventing nutrient depletion and promoting a balanced nutrient cycle. Additionally, it disrupts the life cycles of pests and diseases, reducing their population and minimizing the need for chemical interventions.
Creating a good plan for the rotation of the crops during the growing seasons requires long-term strategic design and a clearly defined goal. Without such planning, serious problems can occur such as overpopulation of specific soil microbes that adversely affect a particular crop or imbalance of soil nutrients.
Most crop growers focus on two things when they do plan which are improved yield (quality or quantity) for greater profit and improved soil quality.
It in the narrow sense of the word is a pre-planned shift (rotation) of crops, both temporally and spatially.
In a broader sense, crop rotation forms the basis of crop production, it integrates the relations between the production processes and the needs of specific crops, cultivation, fertilization , and protection of the planned crops. Thus, it represents an approach to the utilization of the growing potential of the arable lands.
The basics of the crop rotation are:
• involvement of specific crops.
• division of arable areas in the crop rotation.
• the actual rotation of the crops in time and area.
• soil rest.
What is the purpose of crop rotation?
The intention of doing crop rotation is to sustainably utilize the soil nutrients in providing enough time for the soil to recuperate and directly be involved in that recuperation by planting specific crops that have different nutrient requirements.
With the implementation of this approach of rotating the crops during the growing seasons, the farmers are affected by different natural processes that can occur in the agricultural environment.
These processes can range from one of the most valuable processes in agriculture such as nitrogen fixation by the symbiosis of legumes and nitrogen-fixing microorganisms up to changing the physical structure of the soil by planting deep-rooted or tuberous crops.
This ability to affect the natural processes with proper informed planning of crops that are going to be cultivated in the next years and on which agricultural plots, gives the farmers an advantage on the market and potential for greater profits.
The mentioned advantages of crop rotation consist of the following benefits from the implementation:
- Lower costs for agricultural inputs (pesticides, fertilizers, irrigation)
- Minimizing disease and pest pressures across the agricultural plots
- Improvement of agrobiodiversity
- Improvement of soil quality
- Improvement in the yield quality and quantity.
The principles of crop rotation
Each individual agricultural plot has its unique properties, as well as each agricultural enterprise. Based on the potential of the land and the potential of the farmers, each rotation is specific to that agricultural production system.
Despite its specificness, there are some basic models that can be alternated based on the farmers’ requirements, environmental conditions, financial plans, etc.
The main models can be in the form of three-year, seven-year crop rotation schemes or in other formats depending on the requirements of the farmer or the needs of nature and the soil itself.
The wheat-soybean-corn is one of the most widely used crops in organic production worldwide. Soybean as a crop capable of nitrogen fixation is one of the main sources of available nitrogen for the following crop.
The wheat and the corn as the main cash crop can utilize the nitrogen from the soybean and improve their yields. From another perspective these three crops are generally different from each other, meaning that they have different requirements and different issues regarding their production.
Additionally, by including potatoes in this classic crop rotation, as a crop that has a high added value and has a beneficial effect on the soil, producers will have the potential for higher earnings and at the same time will have a conservation effect on agro-biodiversity.
What are the advantages of crop rotation?
1. Minimizing disease and pest pressures across the agricultural plots
With monocultures or monocropping, there is a potential for increasing the presence of microorganisms and pests that are hosts to the specific crop that is grown.
With it, the usual hosts can no longer be that much active or even unsuitable for thriving in conditions that the following crop is making.
2. Improvement of agrobiodiversity and soil quality
It is a proven method for improving soil quality, thus creating an environment suitable for different saprophytic microorganisms, invertebrates, and other kinds of living things.
Their metabolic processes during their lifetime are contributing to increasing the soil organic content and water retention capacity allowing different types of plants to prosper on that particular agricultural plot.
3. Improvement in the yield quality and quantity
If the soil has enough of every kind of nutrient needed for proper crop growth, achieving potentially high yields is realistic. Additionally, it also is a very helpful mechanism in mitigating the negative effects of climate change, thus allowing the producers to obtain those yields.
4. Lower costs for agricultural inputs (pesticides, fertilizers, irrigation)
With the implementation of proper crop rotation and having all the above-mentioned benefits, the producers can have lower costs for agricultural inputs. Less disease and pest pressure mean less-used pesticides.
Improvement of soil nutrient content means fewer fertilizers input. Having a constant crop cover and improvement in soil structure means less irrigation.
Although if executed properly there are no real shortcomings of crop rotation, but rather potential risks that can fail the production season with or without implementing such an approach. These risks include bad weather conditions and crop production management.
The only real disadvantage of it is in areas where there is a high suitability for growing a specific crop and there is an obligatory crop diversification law.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How to rotate crops?
It involves the systematic change of crops in a specific field over seasons or years. To implement crop rotation, start by identifying suitable crop options for your region and considering factors like soil type, climate, and market demand.
Plan a sequence of different crops, ensuring they have distinct nutrient requirements and growth habits. Rotate crops by planting them in designated areas or plots according to the planned sequence, following the recommended planting and harvesting schedules.
Regularly monitor the results and make adjustments based on the specific needs and goals of your farm.
2. What to plant after potatoes rotation?
After growing potatoes, it is beneficial to follow with crops that have different nutrient requirements and help break disease cycles. Legumes like beans or peas are excellent choices as they fix nitrogen in the soil, improving its fertility for future crops.
Leafy greens such as lettuce or spinach can also be suitable options, providing a quick turnaround and contributing organic matter to the soil. Additionally, brassicas like cabbage or broccoli help control pests and diseases commonly associated with potatoes.
Consider local climate and market demand when deciding on the specific crop to plant after potatoes.Whats