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Crop Rotation and How It Can Benefit Your Farm

Crop Rotation and How It Can Benefit Your Farm

What you need to know about Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is a simple procedure that involves not planting the same crop in the same soil for two to six years. However, there are a limited number of crop rotations and real crop options available to Irish Growers. Crop rotation prevents a build-up of diseases in the soil which can infect and re-infect families of plants. Plants also absorb different quantities of soil nutrients, and repeated plantings of the same family can deplete the soil. There is some time involved initially developing your plan but it’s quick and easy once in place. Consider growing a green manure crop somewhere in the cycle to replenish nitrogen stores and build up the organic matter in the soil.

What is continuous monoculture?

Monoculture or often called monocropping is the practice of producing or growing one crop species in the same soil in repetition every year. This practice can lead to an increase in pest, weeds prevalence in a certain area. Leading to increased pesticides which in turn increases resistance to pesticides as some pests will survive repeated applications. Intensive farming of this nature can damage soils by continually depleting with its specific nutrient requirement, Monocultures can push ecosystems out of balance as there is a reduction in soil organisms when soil physical characteristics are poor, which is evident in monocultures. Monocropping requires a higher level of fertiliser in order to achieve maximum productivity from the crops, as nutrients need to be replenished artificially.

Cereal yields are higher when they are grown in rotation. Research shows that wheat yields are 11% higher when the crop is grown in rotation compared to wheat grown in a continuous cropping system.

The implementation of a good rotation should provide growers with:

  • Increased profitability
  • Diversify risks
  • Fulfil greening regulations
  • Effective use of herbicides on difficult weed.
  • Soil structure benefits



How do I choose a rotation that suits?

There are different factors to consider when developing a plan for crop rotation, there are IPM benefits and concerns that must be looked at; choosing crops that reduce the risk of soil borne diseases such as take all, volunteer weeds, the possibility of disease carry over and fertility issues. Also, it’s important that when selecting a crop to use in your system, that there is a market for the crop at harvest.

The main two break crops that suit Irish tillage rotations are Beans and Oilseed Rape.

Beans whether spring or winter provide a useful break crop for wheat or other cereal crops. They produce their own nitrogen and leave residual nitrogen for the following crop. They can be sown very early in spring or winter thus getting acres planted and their root structure leaves soil in very good condition.

Oilseed rape acts as a break crop from the Take-All fungus which adversely affects wheat. Yield of wheat sown after sowing rape can increase by 0.5-1.5t/ha depending on the incidence of take all during the growing season. Also, the use of oilseed rape and spring barley in a rotation with winter wheat can reduce the incidence of blackgrass significantly.

Other Commonly used break crops include maize and beet. When grow in conjunction with a local livestock farmer or for energy production. These crops have the ability to provide a significant break for the soil as they are of a different crop family, using a different range of nutrients from the soil, which will allow other soil nutrients replenish and which will then provide the following cereal crop with an added yield bonus.

Another break crop is oats. Oats have the ability to provide a break for the soil and help alleviate Take-All problems. If growers had an area that has a low pH or low in P and K, then oats will likely perform better than other cereals as it is a scavenger crop. The disadvantage of using oats in a rotation is why they are not considered a true break crop. They do not provide the added yield benefit for the following crop.

If considering implementing a crop that will add value to your rotation this winter, please contact your local Area Sales Manager who will advise on rotation and crop markets.

Advantages of crop rotation

  • Prevents soil depletion
  • Maintains soil fertility
  • Reduces soil erosion
  • Controls insect/mite pests.
  • Reduces reliance on synthetic chemical
  • Reduces the pests’ build-up
  • Prevents diseases
  • Helps control weeds i.e. Blackgrass Disadvantages of Crop Rotation
    • There are No disadvantages of crop rotation.
    • Crop rotation fails when we grow the crops without planning and proper management of those crops. Incorrect implantation or an unwise plan is the major drawback in crop rotation.

    Top Tips when Planning Crop rotation

    • Know the family where your crops belong to make sure that you plant on the next cropping a crop that belongs to a different family than the previous one.
    • Grow legumes before cereals.
    • Practice green manuring.
    • Always keep farm records
    • Plan accordingly to fulfil greening regulations.
    • Know the Yield, Costs, Profits for each crop on your soils.
    • Due regard to the market for Break crops
    • Make decisions based on profit and long-term benefits.