Crop Rotations

Crop Rotation: The What, Why, and How

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

What is a crop rotation?

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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 that 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. 

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Why is crop rotation practiced?

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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 will be able to avoid using synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and other “band-aid” solutions that damage soil ecosystems.

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How is crop rotation practiced?

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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.

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How Basaltic Farms Practices Crop Rotations

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 useful 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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