Crop rotation. Photo by Ivan Bandura on Unsplash
Growers

Crop rotation

In the field of agriculture, several strategies are implemented in order to guarantee that the soils intended for planting maintain optimal health conditions to extend their useful life and obtain quality products. One of these strategies is the rotation of crops that is often used in farms and orchards worldwide as a way to prevent the saturation of the land that would deplete its potential, or ends up becoming in the long term a focal point for the production of diseases that compromise the integrity of food and other plants.

But what is the crop rotation technique? It consists on farmers being responsible for varying plants from different families, with different nutritional requirements, in the same space, but in different periods and according to how the seasons transition throughout the year.

At this point, it is essential to design a good rotation plan having some sort of a map or well-detailed scheme handy to control the processes and the action plans that must be carried out during each season, as well as the contingency measures to try to reduce the events that may arise in terms of the levels of soil fertility, presence of weeds and unwanted pests.

Considerations if you want to plant different species in the same land

When the decision to place different species of plants in the same field is made, the agricultural producers must perform a very meticulous and exhaustive analysis of each one of the samples in order to define the ones that are better matched, as well as the best treatments and care they should receive to take full advantage of the same, especially regarding the amount of water that should be used, the irrigation mechanism and the type of fertiliser that favours them.

It is crucial to keep in mind that in order to achieve greater efficiency with crop rotation, it is necessary to avoid the rotation of plants with identical botanical vegetative origin such as spinach and beet, which are chenopodiaceae; the combination of celery and carrot, which are among the umbellifers; or potatoes and tomatoes, which are solanaceous.

Crop rotation benefits

The crop rotation technique has many advantages, such as preventing the impoverishment of the soil, since placing several types of plants implies that the requirements of each one help diversify the soil, thus providing new nourishing components just as the injection of a cocktail of vitamins would do. In this way, the soil is kept busy and natural regeneration is operating without the need to use chemical additives.

Another benefit of this technique is the possibility of controlling pests and diseases that pose a threat to crops, since they do not extend over time as they able to exterminate themselves without the need to use pesticides, whether biological or chemical. Also, although in an indirect way, it helps reduce the amount of fertilizers and weed growth is controlled more efficiently. This means significant savings in capital, time and effort for the farmer.

In general, it is common for diverse species to require the same nutrients. However, not all of them can receive these nutrients in the same quantities or at the same time. Producers should be very careful regarding this aspect, since planting a variety of plant that requires a special and extensive care poses the risk of suffocating the reserves of substrates present in the soil, which will end up overexploiting the land. This can be prevented by changing crops by less demanding species occasionally, which will allow the soil to be oxygenated and then prepared to receive another species.

The crop rotation strategy has been used by many agricultural producers because it is very efficient and ideal to reduce the use of fertilizers, which in most cases only end up polluting the waters located at the underground level. Also, the strategy allows to achieve an increase in the reserve of humus or organic fertilizer that is very useful to retain and filter the water and provide higher consistency and fertility to the land.

Considerations for crop rotation

In order to carry out the cultivation of crops and to take full advantage of their potential, it is essential to consider some criteria, for example, the fact that there are subgroups that can be chosen according to their root, fruit, leaf and seeds. There are others that can be separated by crop family (cucurbits, leguminous, solanaceous, cruciferous, gramineae, alliaceae, chenopodiaceae and umbellifferae), or also according to the specific care and contributions that each plant can bring to the land.

Many wonder what is the best way to plant when implementing the technique of crop rotation and most farmers agree that it is best to do it in rows, with some kind of legume, and then change the species that require the use of a large amount of organic matter such as potatoes by others that need less organic matter such as onions, chard or peas.

Onions crop rotation. Photo by Thomas Martinsen on Unsplash

Onions crop rotation. Photo by Thomas Martinsen on Unsplash

Inconveniences regarding crop rotation

Crop rotation is highly recommended by farmers worldwide, therefore, it is necessary to be aware of the drawbacks that can arise at the time of planning to evaluate all aspects.

The pattern of sowing tends to be somewhat limited if what you have in mind is to increase productivity throughout the year, this is mainly because an area of the land will be exclusively dedicated to one of the four plant families.

Some types of plantations such as asparagus and raspberries find it difficult to enter the operating cycle. That is why farmers dedicated to high-yield monoculture plantations should know that crop rotation is not an appropriate technique from an economic point of view. A suitable example for delimitation is flower cultivation, when the rhubarb or the asparagus, which have almost no influence on the fertility of the soil, are separated. For the groups that will change their position, it is necessary to prepare the portions of land in the same proportion of the number of years the crop rotation would last, so that each plant takes that amount of time to repeat the same area.

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