What is Crop Rotation?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 September 2019
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Crop rotation is a time-honored process of planting annual crops. The strategy involves changing the type of crops that are planted in a given section of field each growing season. There are several benefits connected with this approach that help to increase the chances for successful crops each season.

Considered the opposite of monoculture cropping, field crop rotation normally involves a rotating cycle that is utilized for anywhere from two to four years. That is, the same section of land is not used to grow the same crop or a crop of the same species more than once in the specified period. Instead, crops that are very different will be planted in that tract of land in the interim period.

One good example of vegetable crop rotation can be found on a small family farm. For the first year, a given field may be used to plant corn. The following year, that same tract of land is used to grow string beans. For the third year, that same section of ground is host to tomato plants. Finally, corn is returned to the field at the beginning of the fourth year.

There are two good reasons to design a workable crop rotation strategy. First, the process helps to replenish the soil from one year to the next. Doing so usually results in crop production that is far superior to what is achieved when planting the same crops in the same location year after year.


Rotating crops in a garden is also beneficial in that it helps to minimize the impact of pests on the various crops. Many pests begin to concentrate within a given area when the same crops are planted in the same field each year. Rotating the type of crops planted in the space helps to prevent this from occurring, thus decreasing the opportunity for a severe infestation that wipes out most or all of the crop.

While there are a number of different ways to replenish the soil from one growing season to the next, many farmers continue to make use of crop rotation. This is especially true with farmers who prefer to produce crops with minimum usage of chemicals and other artificial methods to protect crops from infestations or to restore the nutrient balance of the soil. In particular, organic farming operations use crop rotation as one of the tools to produce the best crops from one year to the next. As a growing strategy, it is highly likely that crop rotation will remain in use for many years to come.


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Post 3

I'm curious about crop rotation in history. How long has crop rotation been used? I was wondering how anyone came up with the idea in the first place. But then I realized that we have so much technology these days that there are probably people who have figured out exactly which nutrients each kind of crop uses from the soil it grows in. Is this true?

But what about before all of the science and technology that we have now? Were people still using crop rotation?

Post 2

I've never heard of this before, but it makes a lot of sense. I imagine that each kind of crop pulls different nutrients out of the soil than each other crop.

Last year I started to grow my own vegetables for the first time. My garden isn't very big. It's just enough to feed my family. I'm wondering if crop rotation of vegetables would be beneficial in a small home garden. Or is it just useful on farms?

Post 1

I can completely understand why farmers would want to continue to use crop rotation as opposed to using chemicals to help to restore the soil or to keep pests away.

I think that natural solutions are better than resorting to chemicals, and should be used as much as possible. In this case, I don't understand why chemicals would be used at all instead of crop rotation? Wouldn't it get expensive to have to buy the chemicals? It doesn't seem like there would be any expense involved with crop rotation.

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