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What is CropRotation?
Crop rotation is a farming practice employed by farmers for centuries. It is defined as the intentional planting of different types of crops on different parts of the land during different seasons in a sequential fashion. This system entitles farmers to give their farms a break in a particular season, allowing the land to rejuvenate for the next season. Crop rotation allows us to incorporate livestock into the practice as well.
History of Crop Rotation
Farmers carried out crop rotation for centuries, withouthaving the scientific data or evidence to back its success. They didn’t even havea specific term for it. This meant that they didn’t have any clue of the impactit may have on the environment.
With crop rotation, the crop that pulls a particular nutrient from the soil allows that nutrient to replenish once again in the soil when a different crop will be planted next season. It helps to reduce the accumulation of pathogens and pests within the soil that often occurs when one species continuously cropped (Monoculture farming). Crop rotation can also improve soil structure and fertility.
The 3-Field system; with Crop Rotation Examples
The three-field system is a regime employed in the croprotation system. It is in use since medieval times.The three-field system allows farmers to plant more cropsthus increasing production.
Let me give you an exampleof crop rotation to make it better for you!
The land is dividedinto three large fields; one for plantation in autumn with winter wheat or rye:the second field was planted with crops such as peas, lentils, or beans and thethird field was left unplanted. This last field will soon be overgrown,allowing for livestock to graze the fields.
Consequently, you can use the three field system on one field like your vegetable garden. Here you will be planting one at a time and then the next in rotation from the three-field system.
Read the proper guide on planning 3-field crop rotation in your backyard at the end of this article,StayTuned!
Their excrement allowed for the fertilization of the soil ofthe field so that it can regain its nutrients. Rotations of the crops were doneannually, meaning that two out of the three fields would be planted every yearthat meant each field would be cultivated twice every three years.
Before the introduction of the three-field system, the two-field system was being used inwhich one land was planted while the other one was left fallow. With the risingdemand for agricultural products and more crops available to sell; peopleshifted from the two-field system to the three-field system to increase landproductivity.
Best CropRotation Benefits
1. High soil fertility
If a farmer chooses to plant the same crop repeatedly, thesoil may become depleted of specific nutrients. Crop rotation allows differenttypes of crops to be planted every season. Each crop has a differentnutritional requirement, and to fulfill it, they extract that particularnutrient from the soil.
This reduces the load on a single nutrient in the soil,preventing it from becoming deficient in that particular nutrient since adifferent crop will be planted with different nutritional needs. Thisultimately increases the fertility of the soil, as it will have a balancedamount of nutrients present within it in every season due to it havingsufficient time and reduced burden to replenish particular nutrients.
Crop rotation basics: 9 main crop f...
Crop rotation basics: 9 main crop f...
Crop rotation also helps to increase the organic matter ofthe soil which is left behind by microorganisms found in various types of cropsplanted. Animals that graze on unplanted grasslands excrete manure which canact as a natural fertilizer for the soil and prepare it for next season.
2. Higher crop yields
Crop rotation increases the productivity of the land from asingle seasonal harvest. It does not just provide a different variety of cropsbecause of incorporation of different crop types, but it is a general bountyharvest.
The availability of different nutrients from the soil helpsto provide adequate nourishment to the plants ensuring high yield production.Farmers should really consider crop rotation once they start to feel their landisn’t producing crops with sufficient yields. These further show howadvantageous crop rotation is as it once again brings back life into the fieldwhich may have seen a fall in its productivity.
3. Increased soil nutrients
As mentioned earlier, crop rotation allows replenishment ofnutrients without having to use any fertilizers on the soil. Allowing the land torest for a season will allow the soil to regenerate valuable nutrientspreviously absorbed by the crops.
Plantation of crops such as legumes allows nitrogen fixationinto the soil due to the presence of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their roots.Different crop types can absorb different nutrients, based on theirphysiological needs. Knowing which type of plant should be grown after everyrotation and what is the requirement of that plant is essential in carrying outcrop rotation successfully.
4. Reduction in Soil Erosion
Soil erosion carries away most of the topsoil layer throughwind or water. Plants (like cover crops) anchor the topsoil layer through theirroots, preventing soil erosion. Planting cover crops or crawling plants willhelp to prevent soil erosion by giving the ground adequate crop cover and allow the land to rest in the meantime.Crop rotation helps in reducing rainfall impact on the soil and general erosionby water. Trees being planted alongside crops will provide a better preventingof soil erosion.
Preventing soil erosion goes a long way in reducing culturaleutrophication of nearby water bodies as well.
5. Limits concentration of Pest and Diseases
If the same plants are planted, again and again, that will allowproduce and multiple similar pathogens repeatedly. Crop rotation helps toreduce this pathogenic load on the field as it intercepts the pest life cycleby not providing it the same habitat (same crops) again and again.
A farmer needs to be aware of the various pests and diseasesthat may affect his/her crops and ultimately reduce land productivity. Crop rotationlowers the risk of pest infestation and allows farmers to grow crops withoutusing chemical pesticides harmful to the environment.
6. Reduced WeedStress
Crop rotation helps to control the amount of weeds on thefield, especially by maintaining conditions on the land that limit and reduceweed multiplication. This means that crop rotations act as crowd control forweeds competing with the crops being planted (a constant nuisance for farmers).In the long run, farmers don’t need to use tillage on the ground anymore.
7. Improvement in Soil Structure
There is reduced compaction of soil when carrying out croprotation which improves the physical condition of the soil. This is a majoradvantage as it allows soil conditions in which good seed germination andproliferation of root can occur. Crop rotation helps in soil processes such aswater infiltration and aeration that are all major advantages for your cropsand the overall composition of the soil.
8. Reduced Pollution
The constant use of fertilizers to maintain crop fertility,the use of pesticides, and the use of tillage; all prove to be a source ofpollution. Crop rotation reduces the use of all of this and thus helps toimprove the environment. Crop rotation naturally increases soil fertility,reduces the population of weeds and pests on the farmland. This prevents use ofsynthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides which can be a sourceof pollution and cause various health issues for the farmers as well.
Disadvantages of Crop Rotation
Planting different crops every season means higherinvestments in buying different seeds for different types of crops. There is noguarantee of success in this practice and it may end up being a detrimentalloss for the farmer.
Pests or diseases specific to one crop will have thepotential to infect the whole field in a single season. Sometimes the yield maynot be of the farmer’s desired expectations. And if it’s the only plant theyhave planted that season, the farmer will not be able cover his expenses.
2. Difficult to specialize
For the success of crop rotation, different crops must beplanted every season. This prevents the farmer from specializing in a specifictype of crop. The farmer might not be able to produce a single crop on a largescale over a long period because of the implications it may have on the soil.
Due to the farmer not having the specialty in a particularcrop, he may be unable to produce high yields of that crop. Crop diversificationrequires investment in different planting techniques for each unique crop, thiscosts time and money as different crops require a different amount of time andattention.
3. In some cases; More harm than good
If the crop rotation system isn’t implemented properly, itmay end up causing more harm than good. One must have complete technical knowledge and skill about crop rotation beforeimplementing it on their farm.
Experimentation is to be avoided when carrying out croprotation. Farmers must have the knowledge to know which crop is to be plantedwhen, as well as what crop must be planted after it. If the same crop isplanted after another crop that used the same nutrient, the nutrient depletion willthen be more exacerbated. Thus lack of proper knowledge, technique, andimplementation may cause the farmer to suffer from significant losses.
4. Not suitable in certain conditions
Certain climates and regions may not be an advocate of croprotation. Monoculture may bepreferred in that region as certain crops cannot grow well in specific types ofsoils and climate.
How to plan crop rotation for your home garden?
You can choose to carry out crop rotation in your own garden. Crop rotation for vegetables can be done on the basis of types of vegetables that you grow. Vegetable crops in the same plant family should be avoided in the same area of your garden for a year at least.
For Example; eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers belong to the same family and so should not be planted in the same area the following year.
Crop rotations vary in the degree ofcomplexity. They can simply involve changing the vegetable locations annually,or can be done with a bit complexity by utilizing crop cover/green manure andleaving parts of a garden to rest without any plantation for a few months.
Crop cover/green manure should beplanted before, after or even with the placement of a vegetable crop in orderto improve fertility of the soil and also prevent issues such as drainage, soilerosion and hold nutrients in the soil.
It isn’t ideal to leave an areafallow as it is more prone to erosion; I would rather have you plant covercrops/green manure. What’s more concerning is that, leaving an area devoid ofplantation can lead to formation of weeds that can leach nutrients and causeproblems for future vegetable production.
In order for crop rotation to be highly effective, don’t plant an area with vegetables or cover/green manure from the same family of plant more than once every 3-4 years. Plotting out areas of crop rotation is usually difficult to achieve in a small garden, but even the changing plant families grown in a garden from year to year is helpful in avoiding insect, pests, and other diseases.