This unit looks at crop rotation and its advantages. It also looks at the terms used in crop farming
Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of different types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons. Crop rotation gives various nutrients to the soil. A traditional element of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals and other crops.

Crop rotation

Crop rotation also mitigates the build-up of pathogens and pests that often occurs when one species is continuously cropped, and can also improve soil structure and fertility by alternating deep-rooted and shallow-rooted plants. Crop rotation has increased in the south in the last 10 years due to the changing tides of the ever changing grain price. With the increase in corn acres across the south, as well as the increase in irrigation, we have seen a steady increase in yields.

There are many studies showing yield increases of 10 to 15 percent in soybeans and corn when rotation is utilized. Rotations also help with a reduction in nematodes, weeds and diseases. Northern Leaf Blight is a good example of a disease that has increased over the last several years, and can be reduced by rotating corn and soybeans. Understanding the relationship between nitrogen (N) and crop rotation is very important when making N management decisions.

There are several benefits to using crop rotation, including improved nutrient cycling, soil tilth, and soil physical properties; and enhanced weed control. Crop rotation also may influence the rate of N mineralization or the conversion of organic N to mineral N by modifying soil moisture, soil temperature, pH, plant residue, and tillage practices.

The incremental increase in N use over the past five decades, due to emphasis on maximizing yield, has led to a subsequent increase in N in the soil profile of some agricultural fields. Therefore, the influence of agricultural practices on water quality has prompted studies to develop best management practices to optimize the use of fertilizer N and reduce N loss to surface and groundwater.

Crop rotation can play a major role in minimizing the potential risk of nitrate leaching to surface and groundwater by enhancing soil N availability, reducing the amount of N fertilizer applied, and minimizing the potential risk of N leaching.

Research on the impact of long-term crop rotation on soil N availability shows that planting alfalfa, corn, oat, and soybean significantly increased the mineralized net N in soil compared with planting continuous corn. Because soil N mineralization can effect yield, crop rotation thus can be used as a management system to enhance the soil nutrient pool, thereby reducing the fertilizer N input and minimizing the risk of leaching of excess N during wet weather.

Crop Rotation

A combination of conservation tillage practices and crop rotation has been shown to be very effective in improving soil physical properties. Long-term studies in the Midwest indicate that corn-soybean rotation improves yield potential of no-till compared with continuous corn.

The reduction in yield of continuous corn in no-till is attributed to low soil temperature during seed germination, which is evident on poorly drained soils under no-till. Studies show that the poor performance of no-till corn following corn is more likely due to the previous crop than to surface residue conditions preventing early-season warming and drying of soils.

The use of a legume cover in crop rotation can provide a substantial amount of N to a succeeding crop. Research has indicated that seeding rates for legumes can be reduced by approximately one-third of that recommended for forage production when used as cover crops without sacrificing biomass or N accumulation.

Also, the type of crop grown in the previous year can impact the efficiency of conservation tillage, especially for no-till systems, due to the kind and amount of crop residue from the previous crop.

Terms used in crop farming

Agroforestry: An agroforestry system is a form of multiple land use where woody perennials (trees, shrubs, bamboos, palm trees, woody lianas) are grown on the same land management unit with crops and/or animals.

Alley Cropping: Growing annual crops in the space between rows of long-term tree crops.

Application Rate Management: The use of information, such as soil type and soil analysis, to determine optimal nutrient application rates.

Beekeeping: The maintenance of honey bee colonies for pollination, honey production and breeding.

Biological Inoculants: Microbial soil amendments that promote plant growth by increasing plant-available nutrients or stimulating root growth.

Catch Crops: A quick growing crop, planted and harvested between two regular crops.

Conservation Tillage: Any of several farming methods that provide for seed germination, plant growth, and weed control yet maintain effective ground cover throughout the year and disturb the soil as little as possible.

Continuous Cropping: The growing of a single crop species on a field year after year.

Contour Farming: Field operations such as plowing, planting, cultivating, and harvesting on the contour, or at right angles to the natural slope, to reduce soil erosion, protect soil fertility, and use water more efficiently.

Cover Crops: A crop grown between periods of regular production of the main crop for the purposes of protecting the soil from erosion and improving soil productivity, health and quality.

Crop Improvement And Selection: The improvement of crop performance through breeding, grafting and other techniques.

Crop Rotation: System of cultivation where different crops are planted in consecutive growing seasons to maintain soil fertility.

Cropping Systems: The pattern of crops grown on a given piece of land, or order in which the crops are cultivated over a fixed period.

Double Cropping: Two different crops grown on the same area in one growing season.

Drainage Systems: Manmade systems of furrows, ditches, tile drains, pipes, etc. which collect and remove water from a central location.

Drought Tolerance: Selecting crops or crop varieties because of their relative ability to withstand arid or drought conditions.

Fallow: Leaving land that is plowed and tilled unseeded for a growing season.

Fertigation: The application of fertilizers or other water-soluble products through an irrigation system.

Fertilizers: For synthetic fertilizers.

Foliar Feeding: The application of liquid fertilizers directly to crop leaves.

Food Processing: Includes resources on postharvest treatment, processing facilities, safety and quality.

Food Processing Facilities: Facilities used to prepare produce for the market and create value-added products. Includes community kitchens.

Food Product Quality/Safety: Resources that can help producers address issues related to food quality and safety.

Forest Farming: The production of specialty crops under a forest canopy that has been modified for the purpose.

Forest/Woodlot Management: The management of a forest or woodlot to preserve its long-term economic, environmental and recreational value.

Forestry: Includes both forest management and agroforestry topics.

Grafting: The fusion of two or more different plants in order to take advantage of attributes found in each one.

Greenhouses: Glass buildings with heating that are used to grow crops throughout the year.

High Tunnels Or Hoop Houses: Large, unheated structures made with metal poles and plastic sheeting that protect crops against snow and low temperatures.

Intercropping: The growing of two or more different species of crops simultaneously, as in alternate rows in the same field or single tract of land.

Irrigation: Includes all artificial methods of applying water to crops.

Low Tunnels: Short, unheated structures that protect crops against snow and low temperatures, and are easy to set up and take down.

Multiple Cropping: The growing of more than one crop consecutively in the same field in a single year.

Municipal Wastes: Includes the use of municipal waste as a soil amendment and fertilizer.

No-Till: Growing crops or pasture without disturbing the soil through tillage.

Nurseries: Buildings where plants are propagated and grown to usable size.

Nutrient Cycling: The movement and exchange of organic and inorganic matter back into the production of living matter.

Nutrient Management: Managing the amount, source, placement, form and timing of the application of nutrients and soil amendments to ensure adequate soil fertility for plant production and to minimize the potential for environmental degradation, particularly water quality impairment.

Organic Fertilizers: For fertilizers derived from plant or animal matter.

Plant Breeding And Genetics: The use of genetic information and breeding techniques to develop improved plant varieties.

Pollination: Includes topics related to the use of pollinators in crop production.

Pollinator Habitat: The flowering plants and nesting sites that serve to support the year-round presence of pollinators.

Pollinator Health: Resources that address pests of pollinators and other health concerns, such as pesticide exposure.

Postharvest Treatment: The preparation of gathered or harvested commodities for fresh market or processing.

Relay Cropping: The seeding of one crop into another standing crop, e.g., winter wheat into standing soybeans.

Ridge Tillage: A system of scalping and planting on ridges built during cultivation of the previous year’s crop.

Row Covers (For Season Extension): Fabric that covers the soil and protects rows of crops from the cold.

Season Extension: The practice of cultivating a crop beyond its normal outdoor growing season, typically through the use of structures or shelters.

Seed Saving: The practice of keeping seeds or other reproductive material from a crop for use in the future.

Shade Cloth: A material that creates shade, thereby protecting summer-season crops from intense heat.

Silvopasture: The combination of trees with forage and livestock production.

Strip Tillage: Tillage that disturbs only an 8- to 10-inch strip of soil that will contain the seed row, wider than zone tillage.

Stubble Mulching: Leaving the crop residue or stubble in place on the field as a surface cover during fallow.

Terraces: Natural or manmade landforms which run perpendicular to the slope and are bordered on one side by a steep ascending slope and on the other side by a steep descending slope.

Tissue Analysis: A chemical measurement of essential plant nutrients within a sample of plant tissue.

Varieties And Cultivars: Resources that compare the production needs, strengths and weaknesses of different crop varieties and cultivars.

Water Management: Includes information on irrigation, drainage, water storage and other topics.

Water Storage: Includes all methods of storing water for later use, including natural stores such as aquifers, soil water and wetlands, and artificial stores such as manmade ponds, tanks and keyline designs.

Windbreaks: Linear plantings of trees and shrubs designed to protect crops and soil from wind damage, and provide other services.

Winter Storage: Facilities and strategies for storing harvested crops so they can be sold during the winter.

Zone Till: Tillage that disturbs only a 5- to 6-inch strip of soil that will contain the seed row, narrower than strip tillage.

The following relevant questions in this topic will greatly motivate
and help the user to comprehend and understand the required concepts and practices:

  1. Distinguish between staking and propping as a field management practice on crops
  2. Explain five advantages of crop rotation
  3. State four factors which influence the stage at which the crops are harvested


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