Crop Rotations

Crop Rotation: The What, Why, and How

Crop rotation is essential for any farm looking to build soil health and crop resiliency and save money on nutrient inputs. Working a rotation into your agricultural plan might seem daunting at first, but many techniques are available to break the monotony in farming systems.

What is a crop rotation?

Crop rotations are, in simplest terms, a way to diversify food and shelter for your soil ecosystems and the foundation of regenerative organic agriculture. Farmers and gardeners who practice crop rotation will plant alternating crops on the same piece of land each growing season.

For example, A gardener growing garlic and practicing crop rotation would not plant another Allium species where garlic was grown the previous season.

Why is crop rotation practiced?

In a field where one crop is grown, back to back, year after year, the soil sees a build-up of pests and pathogens harmful to that crop. By mixing in other species, or families, of plants, one can avoid using synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and other “band-aid” solutions that damage soil ecosystems.

How is crop rotation practiced?

One method is to define the crops you grow into four groups:
Root Crops
Fruit Crops
Leaf Crops
For each group, you have a plot in your field or garden. After each harvest, you move the groups to an alternative plot. Ideally, each group will have at least 4 years until entering the same plot.

Crop Rotation Information and Resources

Crop Rotation on Organic Farms – A detailed book with examples, descriptions, and analysis of crop rotations in organic systems. Published by the Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Service with funding in part by the wonderful people at the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education fund.

Crop Rotation Made Easy – A short and helpful blog post with examples of rotating the four groups mentioned above.

Crop Rotation in Organic Farming Systems –  NCAT tipsheet with general principles, considerations, and more interesting resources.

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Regenerative Organic Farming Crop Rotations Honey Bee On Crimson Clover Basaltic Farms

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