Crop rotation is the process of growing different crops on your land each year in a defined pattern. Through rotating crops, soils have the ability to regenerate their nutrients and increase the yield of future crops.
Rotating crops is situational, some farmers rotate two crops and others rotate more than six crops. Crop rotation patterns depend on the soil type, precipitation patterns, climate, and the demand for the crops. However, one thing stays the same, the advantages of rotating crops far outweighs monoculture farming.
Advantages of Crop Rotation
- Rotations reduce pests and diseases. Diversifying crop sequencing causes a disruption in the life cycles of insects, mitigating their ability to survive.
- Better distribution of nutrients in the soil profile. Nitrogen availability is increased and reduces the need to use fertilizer.
- Positive effects on succeeding crops, increasing future production.
- Soil erosion is decreased due to the stability rotating crops brings to soils. This increases water infiltration and decreases runoff.
- Greenhouse gas emissions are decreased with the reduction in use of synthetic fertilizers, which are used to create inorganic nitrogen.
- Carbon storage is increased because soil carbon content will remain in soils with cover cropping periods.
How to Rotate
A necessary part of crop rotation is understanding which crops are beneficial to increase the health of the soil and your farms production. Every plot of land is different and requires different practices.
Some Rotations and Crops to Consider
- Nutrients: Try incorporating different crops that provide nutrients that can help regenerate the soil. By cover cropping you can allow nutrients to go back into soils.
- Intercropping: By varying crops throughout your plot with intercropping you reduce pests’ ability to thrive and harm all crops.
- Row Cropping: Varying crops planted in tight rows, usually found in vegetable farming.
- Land Division: Land can be divided into equal areas and crops can be rotated throughout those pastures.
- Animals: Animals can be rotated throughout a crop rotation as well, by giving them pastures to graze on they can assist in adding nutrients through manure and stomping seeds into the ground.
- Legumes: An important crop to include in rotations is legumes because of their ability to fix nitrogen, a process that doesn’t occur as readily as we demand it. Nitrogen must change forms chemically to be used by plants. It must change from an organic form, such as the nitrogen in our atmosphere, to an inorganic form like nitrate or ammonium.
- Rye: The residue from this crop holds moisture and is able to suppress weeds.
- Cereal and Grasses: These can increase organic matter and assist in providing a strong root system.
Be sure to check with the consultants at Full Spectrum to see what is ideal for your climate, soil types, economic profitability, and needs!