Submitted to: Popular Publication
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: May 20, 2009
Publication Date: June 11, 2009
Citation: Singer, J.W., Bauer, P.J. 2009. Crop Rotation in Row Crop Production Systems. Popular Publication. Available: http://soilquality.org/practices/row_crop_rotations.html Technical Abstract: Crop rotation is a system of growing different kinds of crops in recurrent succession on the same land. Thus, in the strictest sense, crop rotation is more than just changing crops from year to year based on current economic situations. Rather, it is a long-term plan for soil and farm management. Crop rotation was widely used prior to the development of mechanization, synthetic nutrient sources, and pesticides. Crop diversification was used to provide a diverse source of food for families, feed for draft animals, sources of nitrogen for subsequent crops, to break weed, disease, and insect cycles, and as an overall risk management tool. These basic ecological principles still apply today, although advances in technology and marketing have contributed to shorter crop rotations and more specialized agricultural systems. Crop rotations are also used to spread labor requirements throughout the year. Some crop rotations are also used to manage water availability, growing crops that differ in rooting pattern or amounts of water use. Crop rotation can increase the yield of a crop compared with growing the same crop consecutively. This response is called the “rotation effect” and has been documented for multiple crops across multiple climates. Producers using crop rotation likely will increase their profitability and promote the multifunctional benefits of crop diversity. Benefits to the ecosystem will likely increase as the crop rotation is extended, although profitability will not necessarily respond similarly. Although crop rotation likely increases yield and profitability, decisions about planting crops are complex. Crop price fluctuation, input costs, rental agreements, government supports, weather, type of farming system and on-farm resources such as animal manures, and other factors all contribute to decisions about crop rotations.