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3 Main Reasons Why Farmers Should Rotate Crops

OneSoil will take you on an exploration of crop rotation. We'll look at what it is and why it's so important to do it right; how it affects soil productivity and plant health; and, how OneSoil can help you plan crop rotation.
Crop rotation is the practice of growing different crops in the same field over several seasons. To be precise, this means rotating between crops and fallow, a plowed, harrowed field left for a season without being sown. Farmers consider different factors when planning their crop rotation: the soil type, climate, amount of precipitation, herbicide residues, and market demand for agriculture products.
Crop rotation works differently from region to region. For example, rotating soybeans and corn is perfect in the United States. But regardless of regional differences, farmers can benefit from making crop rotation a standard practice for three reasons.

Reason #1:
Pest and disease protection

By rotating crops in a field, you deprive parasites of their habitual environment, thereby preventing crop diseases. The reverse is also possible. If crop rotation isn't done correctly, you can infect your next crop with diseases from the previous one. For example, the beet cyst eelworm (Heterodera schachtii) that infects sugar beets also affects rapeseed. That means that farmers should avoid planting these crops in the same field one after the other.

When planning crop rotation, keep in mind the residual effects of the herbicides you used to treat previous crops. For example, the residual effect of sulfonylurea herbicides can adversely affect sugar beets, while triazine herbicides may negatively impact alfalfa seedlings.

Reason #2:
Maintaining soil fertility

If you don't rotate crops, the soil in that field will inevitably begin to lose the nutrients plants need to grow. You can avoid this by sowing crops that increase organic matter and nitrogen in the soil.

Some farmers, for instance, sow legumes to take advantage of their symbiotic relationship with Rhizobia bacteria found in the soil. Why? When coming into contact with legume roots, Rhizobia bacteria form nodules where they convert nitrogen into ammonia, which the plant uses to grow. Likewise, crucifer green manures, such as white mustard, heal the soil by releasing substances that suppress the Rhizoctonia solani fungus.

Alternating between crops with different root systems also offers benefits. Plants with longer roots can get nutrients from deeper layers of the soil than those with a shorter root system. When you alternate between crops like this, you keep the soil healthy.

And yet, even farmers that know the benefits of crop rotation still sometimes don't do it. Say that the price for corn is high for several years in a row. The temptation arises to sow the fields with it nonstop to cash in while prices are high. In the long run, however, this practice leads to problems. Soil fertility decreases and it becomes extremely difficult to grow any crop with high yields.
Exceptions to the rule
There are a few exceptions to the rule. One is monocultures, which yield great harvests in the same field for years. But there are also some tricks you should know about. To reduce the cost of fertilizers and pesticides, auxiliary crops can be planted with monocultures for a season, such as farmers sowing alfalfa between rows of corn. This helps increase the corn yield because alfalfa enriches the soil with nitrogen.

Exceptions to the rule

There are a few exceptions to the rule. One is monocultures, which yield great harvests in the same field for years. But there are also some tricks you should know about. To reduce the cost of fertilizers and pesticides, auxiliary crops can be planted with monocultures for a season, such as farmers sowing alfalfa between rows of corn. This helps increase the corn yield because alfalfa enriches the soil with nitrogen.

Reason #3:
Getting better insurance options

Insurance companies generally factor in crop rotation when deciding a farmer's insurance options. If you alternate crops correctly, control crop conditions, and maintain soil fertility, you boost your chances of having a good harvest. In turn, the likelihood of a bad season resulting in losses for both the farm and the insurance company decreases. That's why insurance companies view farms that practice competent crop rotation as more reliable partners.

How to plan crop rotation and save data with OneSoil

The OneSoil platform lets you save your crop rotation data online. You can log data both in our OneSoil Scouting mobile app and in the OneSoil web application. You can access them at any time from any device, so you can rest assured that your records are secure and just a tap away.

Here are three steps to help you start planning crop rotation with OneSoil:
1
Go to the "Fields" tab and save your fields. You can select them on the map, upload a file with the borders, or draw them yourself.
2
Go to the field editing menu in the web application (or open a field card in the mobile app) and log the crops currently growing and their sowing dates. After that, log crops from the previous season, their sowing and harvest dates, and their average yield. Congratulations! You just started recording crop rotation data!
3
Mark problem areas on your fields and store them in the "Notes" tab. This information will help you identify common problems and patterns for crops in your fields. (Check out the updated notes feature in our mobile app!)
1
Go to the "Fields" tab and save your fields. You can select them on the map, upload a file with the borders, or draw them yourself.
2
Go to the field editing menu in the web application (or open a field card in the mobile app) and log the crops currently growing and their sowing dates. After that, log crops from the previous season, their sowing and harvest dates, and their average yield. Congratulations! You just started recording crop rotation data!
3
Mark problem areas on your fields and store them in the "Notes" tab. This information will help you identify common problems and patterns for crops in your fields. (Check out the updated notes feature in our mobile app!)
You can save crop rotation data both in our mobile app and in the OneSoil web application so as to access them at any time from any device.
We hope this article helped you understand what crop rotation is, how it benefits you and your fields, and how to manage it. If you have questions, feel free to write them in the comments, email them to care@onesoil.ai or ask in the OneSoil Telegram Community.
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