It all sounds nice when told to do crop rotation. It also sounds nice to know its benefits. But knowing how to do it is a challenge.
Creating a good crop rotation plan has many benefits. It also helps to avoid risks that can cause plant death. That is why a step-by-step guide is necessary.
Steps to follow when doing crop rotation
A six-step crop rotation plan is an excellent place to start for a new farmer. The steps have to be completed in sequence to achieve the desired results.
- Step 1: Mapping your garden
- Step 2: Dividing the garden into sections
- Step 3: Grouping crops
- Step 4: Outlining the rotation plan
- Step 5: Include cover crops in between the cycle
- Step 6: Sticking to the Plan
These steps should be followed to the letter for greater success.
Step 1: Mapping Your Garden
You can start with a manual drawing of your garden. This should include information on the size and location of the garden. The shape and topography are also good detail of the map.
Technology can also play a good role in creating a garden map. Google Maps is a good tool for capturing the image of your garden. The map can guide a farmer in coming up with a sketch.
Step 2: Dividing the garden into sections
It would help if you came up with a good sketch of different sections from the map. The sections should be well outlined. These are fields that will show where you will plant each crop. It is an excellent guide to avoid planting the same plant in the same section.
The division depends on the size of the farm. Many farmers prefer smaller sections for easier management. The farmer has a desired outlook of the sections. They can easily decide the number of plots needed.
The shape of the sections does not matter. Different plot sizes may require shaping different sections. But rectangular blocks are mostly preferred.
They are easier to work on when managing the farm. They provide enough spacing for the crops. But any other shape would still be good if the rectangular shape is impossible.
A farmer should always number the divided sections. The numbering helps in making it easier to identify them. It helps prevent any errors during the rotation.
It is also suitable for documentation for the farmer. The sections are numbered depending on the preferred sequencing.
Step 3: Grouping crops
Grouping crops is the next step after the farm structure is ready. This is one of the biggest challenges for farmers. It requires a lot of knowledge of crop type varieties. This helps to know which crop types can be grouped and planted together.
Grouping is necessary to identify the plants to be planted each year. The family of the crop and the season are guiding factors.
The grouping helps with deciding the succession cropping. A specific plant group should be planted in a respective section. The main goal is to rotate the plant groups throughout the years.
There are some common groups identified in crop rotation. This includes categorizing plants into legumes, leafy plants, fruit crops, and cover crops.
The grouping can have a broader range of crops. It all depends on the farmer’s preference and the size of the farm.
Step 4: Outlining the rotation plan
It is essential to outline a desired rotation plan. Experts recommend coming up with a chart for the different sections. The chart should be filled to include the plants for each period. Some crops may feature more than once in other sections.
Intercrop can be used in the rotation plan. This is where more than one crop is included in a section for a given year. But this has to be well-guided. The intercropped plants should be from the same family.
The rotation plan should work to ensure that all plants are featured in each section. The plan should be to return the plant to a given section only after the cycle.
It is good to seek advice from an expert when setting up this plan. This is because it can be complicated for a new farmer.
Step 5: Include cover crops in between the cycle
A good crop rotation plan has to include cover crops. These crops are considered significant in reducing water evaporation. They maintain the moisture of the soil during all weather. The cover crops also reduce weed germination. They are also suitable for boosting soil nutrients.
The type of cover crop to use has to depend on the size of the land. There are those cover crops that grow extensively and require more land.
The type of plant for a given period also determines the cover crop to include. It is necessary to avoid using cover crops that can choke the plants.
Step 6: Sticking to the Plan
A farmer should always stick to an identified rotation plan. The completed chart easily guides this. The successive replacement of one crop for another is the guiding principle. Any alteration of the plan can lead to failure.
Seeking expert advice is recommended whenever a farmer is in doubt. The experts can make amends to the plan where necessary.
More information can also be collected to improve the rotation plan. Farmers should stick to the principle that no one has a monopoly of wisdom in farming.
It is recommended that a farmer often refers back to the plan. It helps to avoid mistakes in the implementation. It also helps to raise the need for changes and improvements.
What is the best sequence of crop rotation?
There is no definite sequence of crop rotation for all farmers. The sequence can be decided depending on many factors.
The guiding factor should be deciding what the previous crops add to the soil. This can help in guiding what crop is the best for succession.
Sequential cropping has to involve different types of plants. Two crops are grown one after the other in sequence. The sequence can start with one main crop in the plot.
This can be followed by a cover crop to replenish the soil quality. A second crop can then replace the first. But this has to depend on the preference of the farmer.
A good example is having maize planted during the rainy season. This can then be replaced with beans in the same plot. The rains guide the sequencing in this case. Beans do well during short rains compared to maize, which thrives in heavy rains.
Do farmers still use crop rotation?
Crop rotation is still a significant practice among farmers. It is still the undisputed organic way of managing pests and diseases. Farmers still use it to manage their produce. Market dynamics are a major driving factor for crop rotation today.
Experts in organic farming recommend crop rotation to continue. They value this method as better compared to modern-day methods. It is the best way to overcome the effects of chemicals and salts. They are introduced to the soil through fertilizers.
What crops are commonly rotated?
Different crops can be rotated depending on their groupings. Nightshade crops are replaced with mustard family crops. The rotation then involves the salad greens. Then the sequence can be repeated for another year.
Crops are rotated depending on their nutrient intake. A farmer has to understand each crop. This includes knowing the effects it has on the soil.
Having nitrogen-releasing crops replace the final crop of the year is considered appropriate. The inclusion of cover crops at the end of the year is also recommended.
Deciding which crops to be rotated should be based on the sequences. A plant that affects the other positively should be rotated in sequence. The current crop choice should reap maximum benefits from the previous crop.
Is crop rotation used in the US?
There is no doubt that crop rotation is a great idea. Experts across the world have recommended it. A considerable number of farmers in the US use crop rotation. Large families across the country popularly embrace it.
Soybean and corn are among the most rotated crops in the US. Research indicated that a considerable part of the soybean farms is continuously rotated. The rotation has been linked to increased yearly yields.
Many farmers in the US prefer 2- and 3-year crop rotations. But the latest trend has been the adoption of four-year plans. This is because of the increased variety of crops. It is also supported by the advancement of technology and knowledge in farming.
A significant observation is that crop rotation is a procedure. It has to use a specific sequence for tremendous success. A step-by-step guide is necessary for this procedure.
The first step is definitely to map a garden. It is good to understand the size of the garden and the topography.
The division of the garden closely follows the understanding of a farm into sections. The farmer has to group the crops before developing a detailed plan. Ensuring that all crops are included in the correct sequence is also necessary.