Crop Rotation and Cover Cropping: Principles and Practices


Crop Rotation and Cover Cropping Principles and Practices

Growing the same culture from year to year is called a monoculture. It was the most common crops farming practice in the past. However, there are other practices that are effective and beneficial. They are used to keep the soil healthy throughout the year and to keep it nutrient-rich.

The bare ground can be subject to water and wind erosion and other types of degradation throughout the year. The methods you can learn about from this piece keep the soil from depletion and destruction. Practices such as crop rotation and cover crops also solve some production problems and are sustainable farming practices.

What Is Crop Rotation?

Crop rotation is an agricultural practice that involves planting several different crops in the same field. This method plays an essential role in the control of pests and diseases of crops. The introduction of crop rotation can reduce the phytosanitary potential by several times in comparison with monoculture cultivation. Crop rotation also contributes to the loss of weeds.

There are crops for which re-seeding is beneficial, such as corn. But many plants, including cereals, peas, and sugar beets, will yield good yields in a crop rotation, and even one re-seeding can cause a backlash.

This practice is a reliable way to improve the condition of the soil and prevent it from emptying, as well as preserve the environment. The same double harvest from year to year will not be beneficial if the same crops grow every year. It is not considered a crop rotation.

What are Cover Crops?

Planting cover crops is an ancient agricultural practice used by the Romans. Fortunately, it has not been lost over the centuries. The practice is used to this day on many farms, as it brings many benefits to growers. This method works for both the short and long term.

Planting cover crops helps prevent soil erosion. These crops also attract insects for pollination, prevent weeds from spreading, and assist in pest control. In addition, cover crops provide the soil with nutritious organic matter and can have an additional function on the farm, becoming livestock feed. Depending on which crops you choose to grow, they can also add or uptake nitrogen.

Principles of Crop Rotation

Crop rotation planning is based on several essential principles. By following them, you can achieve an effective result. Crops chosen for alternate growing should have different nutrient absorption capacities and different root depths.

Plan your plant changes based on their positive or negative impact on each other. They can interfere with each other due to toxic organic matter, soil structure, residual moisture, and microorganisms that inhabit the soil. Another principle of crop rotation is the alternation of crops susceptible to diseases with more resistant ones. Alternation should also be carried out between plants that increase fertility with exhausting soil. It would help if you also considered the need for alternating crops for different resources.

Agricultural Practices

Moisture control makes a significant contribution to maintaining the health of crops. Implementing this practice can help solve the problem of over-watering or under-watering, which in both cases harms the crop. In addition, soil moisture problems can lead to increased susceptibility to disease. Excessive moisture can also cause weeds. Modern irrigation systems solve the problem of wasting water and help to allocate this resource efficiently.

Nitrogen enrichment can be achieved by growing legume cover crops. Soil bacteria get their carbohydrates from legumes. And then, the soil receives nutrients when nitrogen-fixing crops or bacteria die and decompose. Soil bacteria also reduce the risk of root disease in crops.

Non-symbiotic cyanobacteria are also used to convert atmospheric nitrogen to soil nitrogen. Otherwise, nitrogen can be restored to the level necessary for plants through chemical synthesis.

Weed control is a significant part of crops health care. Weeds have adapted to the conditions in which crops grow and cause damage to agriculture. They can drown out the main crop by absorbing large amounts of water and nutrients from the soil. It can lead to plant death and crop failure.

Crop rotation helps control weeds. You can include broadleaf and grasses in the process for this. However, some weeds are Roundup-resistant. A properly formed crop rotation can reduce the density of weeds during the germination period. At the same time, it reduces yield losses and prevents long-term changes in the spectrum of weeds, in particular, an increase in the proportion of those that are difficult to control.

Cultivation of crops with different life cycles helps to cope with weeds, as they do not have time to adapt. Annual weeds grow well where annual plants are constantly planted. The same happens with perennial weeds and perennial crops.

Factors Affecting Crop Rotation 

  • Climate is the most crucial factor affecting crop rotation. When planning your crop rotation, consider rainfall, wind speed, and windy days, as well as other climate factors in your area.
  • The type and nature of the soil also play an essential role in crop rotation. Some types of soils are characterized by high fertility, while others, on the contrary, are of low fertility.
  • When planning your crop rotation, also consider the availability of materials. It is because by introducing this practice, you may need, for example, fertilizers.
  • You can lose your harvest if you don’t have enough workforce. This factor has a powerful effect on crop rotation at crops growth critical stages.
  • The size and location of agricultural land are significant for crop rotation. The choice of crops for a crop rotation can be directly related to the size of the farm. The type of farm is also an essential factor.

Final Thoughts

Crop rotation is a practice of caring for the soil and the environment. For example, by growing cover crops, we prevent the soil from eroding and emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, as they are trapped in the root system.

Crop rotation can also help prevent diseases, but it is essential to remember that this is not a universal remedy for all ills. The need for this practice depends on many factors, including climatic conditions, the needs of the farm, the type of farm, soil, and so on. Consider these when planning to get the most benefit.


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