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What is Crop Rotation?

We want to help you understand the science of crop rotation, which has been practiced by farmers for centuries.

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What exactly is crop rotation?

Crop rotation is the practice of growing dissimilar crops in the same area in a planned sequence.

This practice minimizes erosion, increases soil fertility and crop yield, and reduces reliance on fertilizers and chemical herbicides.

A two-field crop rotation was very popular in Europe. Half the field would be planted and half fallow. The two would be rotated every year.

With half the acreage not producing any crop, clever minds in the late 8th century and early 9th, sought to improve productivity. This led to the three-field crop rotation. By the early 16th century, a four-field crop rotation had become popular. A four-field crop rotation would work in a sequence of something like turnips, wheat, barley, and clover with a fodder and grazing crop allowing livestock to be bred all year.

The rotation between arable and ley is often referred to as ley farming.

In North America, especially in the corn belt, agriculture is dominated by corn. Corn has a high bushel yield for each acre grown. Therefore, it has a high ROI.

A crop rotation brings many benefits to the soil ecology. With a farm being a business, it must produce a profit. Some farms grow corn continuously, supplanting a healthy organic rotation cycle. They rely on herbicides to control weed growth, and fertilizers to counter depleted needed elements such as nitrogen and phosphorous.

Though continuously growing corn can be successful --- nuisances such as corn rootworm (CRW), which can destroy significant percentages of crop if left untreated, are often associated.

Soil-applied insecticides usually combat CRW well. In areas of heavy insecticide use, populations of CRW have been known to become resistant to certain insecticides.

Researchers at leading universities, as well as agricultu