Planning Crop Rotations

Jan 01, 2021

Planning Crop Rotations

A well-planned crop rotation will help keep soils and crops healthier. It is key to sustainability and economic success on the farm. Consider the following when building your crop rotation plan:

1) Practise crop diversity. Rotations with cereals, oilseeds and pulses will improve soil characteristics and improve yield.

2) Be aware of the growth habit of your crop such as rooting patterns and depth
e.g. deep-rooted crops can access subsoil moisture and nutrients more effectively and may help improve soil drainage and aeration.

3) Soil test to determine soil nutrient levels so that crops are fertilized for optimum performance. Use soil testing to ascertain parameters such as organic matter content, pH, carbonate and soluble salt levels as these can impact crop growth and herbicide rates.

4) Consider soil biology. Certain crops, such as pulses form strong associations with mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi help crops access nutrients and water from the soil. Planting pulses after a crop that supports mycorrhizae such as a cereal crop, would be better than after canola which has weak mycorrhizal association.

5) Crop rotation can be a valuable tool to reduce plant disease populations. Alternating cereal and broadleaf crops, as well as following re-cropping recommendations will reduce spore count and reduce disease development. Resistant varieties and fungicide use will complement crop rotation to help manage disease.

6) Know your weed spectrum and select crops that allow for the use of effective herbicides. More competitive crops should be considered for weedier fields. Be mindful of potential volunteers from the previous crop which could present a unique weed challenge. Be prepared with options for their control.

7) Be careful with residual herbicides which may limit crop choices for your rotation. Check with herbicide manufacturers to determine recommendations for re-cropping options and timelines. Rate of herbicide degradation can be influenced by rainfall and temperature, soil pH and organic matter, as well as degree of microbial activity.

8) Choose a crop rotation which allows for herbicide rotation. Rotating herbicide groups and using multiple modes of action will help manage the development of resistance. This is also true for fungicides and insecticides.

Contact your local Shur-Gro sales agronomist for assistance in developing an effective crop rotation plan for your farm.

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