Crop rotation is the systematic planting of different crops in a particular order, over several years in the same growing space. This process helps maintain nutrients in the soil, reduce soil erosion, and prevent pests & diseases. The succeeding crop belongs to a different family than the previous one.
The planned rotation may vary from 2 or 3 years to longer period. Some farmers crop rotate at the end of each planting season. Depending on the farmer’s needs, this plan may include animal feeds like hay and oats. Furthermore, a farmer may decide to leave the land untilled until the following year or planting season.
Reasons Why We Crop Rotate:-
Some of the reasons why we crop rotate are:
1. Managing weeds – This the most important reason for practicing rotation. It reduces the population levels of weeds in the soil.
2. Managing nematodes – Plant crops that are less suitable hosts for nematodes. This is a way of reducing nematode numbers in the soil.
3. Nutrients that were once depleted are replenished and restored in the soil. Depletion of these nutrients occurs when a single crop is grown for many years or seasons in a row. This often leads to poor plant health and lower crop yield.
How to Choose Plants for Crop Rotation:-
The best way to know which crops to practice rotation with is to know your crop family. Then, ensure that you plant a crop that belongs to a different family in the next planting season.
Please see an example of how to rotate crops in your farm depending on soil type, temperature etc.
Legumes e.g. Peas & Beans -> Root e.g. Onions & Carrots -> Fruit e.g. Tomatoes & Peppers -> Leaf e.g. Greens & Spinach
1. Avoid planting crops of the same family every season because they share the same pests & diseases.
2. In the sequence, there needs to be a legume e.g. beans and lentils. Legumes have the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil and improve soil structure & water-holding capacity.
3. Rotate crops with different rooting depth. Rotate deep-rooted crops with the shallow-rooted ones.
The Benefits or Advantages:-
1. A farmer that practices rotation stays in production throughout the year, thus maintaining a steady flow of income. There is also an increase in yields in a rotation sequence.
2. It reduces the amount of fertilizer needed for planting. Thus assisting in cutting the cost of production and increasing the profit margins.
3. It helps in the management of some pests & diseases that have established in the soil over time. It also reduces weeds.
4. It helps to control soil erosion. Soil stability is increased by alternating between shallow and deep-rooted crops. This, in turn, reduces soil erosion.
5. It assists in the build-up of soil organic matter and improves soil structure.
6. Nitrogen management – Crop rotation may impact the rate of nitrogen mineralization or conversion of organic nitrogen to mineral nitrogen. It enhances the soil nutrient pool, thereby reducing the use of fertilizers.
NB: Record Keeping Is Important
It is advisable to keep records of the crops planted in the past. This will help with proper future planning of alternating your crops. It will also help to show past incidents of plant pests & diseases.