9 benefits of crop rotation for the environment

The crop rotation is a thousand years old technique that has been proven to help the environment, improve the soil and so many other things.

Crop Rotation

This system is the practice of growing several dissimilar or different crop types (or no crop at all) in the same area and in sequential seasons.

Historians believe that farmers in the Middle East already practiced crop rotation as early as 6,000 B.C, although they didn’t fully understand the science behind it. The logic behind crop rotation is when the same crop is grown at the same place for several years the soil is depleted of certain nutrients.

Doing rotation, a crop that draws one kind of nutrient from the soil is followed during the consequent season by a crop that returns the nutrient to the soil or draws a distinct ratio of nutrients.

Environmental benefits of the crop rotation

Several problems begin to creep up when you don’t rotate crops. All these problems can lead to decreased yields over the course of several years.

First, the land itself can become “tired” and less fertile. This is because if the same type of crop is planted in the same area, the plant will continue to drain same nutrients from the soil..

Second, certain pests can reach levels that are hard to control. This happens when pests learn to make a home in a field that always has the same type of crop.

Finally, land is more susceptible to the forces of erosion if the same type of crop remains season after season.

So, here we present to you 9 environmental benefits of crop rotation.


#1 Automatic Pests Control

Caterpillars cause crop damage. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

By eliminating their food source with the crop rotation, you make an automatic pest control.

The diversification of cropping sequences takes away the host organism and causes a disruption in the annual life cycle of insects, diseases, and weeds. This results in better soil fertility and carbon storage.

#2 Right Nitrogen Management

While making nitrogen management decisions, it is important to understand the relationship between crop rotation and nitrogen. Along with the other benefits of crop rotation, it may impact the rate of nitrogen mineralization.

Even on the conversion of organic nitrogen to mineral nitrogen by change of soil temperature, moisture, plant residue, pH and tillage practices. A common use of nitrogen it is been showing up over the past 50 years.

The use of this in large amounts, especially to maximize farming production, increases the nitrogen within the soil profile of certain farms.

Rotations that include nitrogen by producing legumes such as peas, beans, and alfalfa give to next crops with large amounts of this critical nutrient.

A research shows that nitrogen from legumes remains in the soil longer than the nitrogen in synthetic fertilizers, leaving less to leach into groundwater or runoff fields and pollute streams.

Crop rotation plays a key role in reducing the risk of nitrate, leaching into surface and groundwater. The system improves the availability of soil nitrogen and reducing the nitrogen fertilizer used.

#3 Fallow Fields Periods Shorten

Crop rotation near Aldunie, UK. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

In the past, not planting anything or leaving the field fallow, allowed the land to rest and replenish its nutrients.

Some modern farmers will occasionally allow fields to lie fallow to rest.

But crop rotation has helped to increase productivity by replacing fallow periods with growing different crops that replenish soil nutrients.

#4 Against Soil Erosion

Crop rotation also helps to battle against the forces of erosion.

Rotating crops helps to improve soil stability by alternating between crops with deep roots and those with shallow roots.

Improvement in soil tilth and microbial communities will help bring down soil erosion due to more stable soil structure.

Also, enhanced water infiltration and minimized surface runoff.

#5 Minimize Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The implementation of  crop rotation cut the nitrogen fertilizer use and drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The global warming potential of nitrous oxide is higher than that of carbon dioxide.

Reduced synthetic fertilizer also means reduced greenhouse gas emissions from manufacture and transportation.

#6 Treats Water Pollution

The crop rotation reduces the number of synthetic fertilizers and that’s why the water pollution caused by nitrogen will also cut.

The rotations with a high share of crops and lesser dependence on pesticides bring down the use of pesticides as well as runoff into groundwater.

#7 Increased Ability to Store Carbon

Crop rotation practices can result in increased soil carbon content through high crop cover periods.

Also, it reduces the frequency and tillage intensity.

The increase in the use of forages in crop rotations as a residue management while higher carbon the soil content helps combat climate change.

#8 Better Soil Structure

Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

Annual crop rotations affect the root structure over a period. For crops having either tap or fibrous roots, the diversity in the root structure will enhance the chemical, physical and biological structure of the soil.

Better soil structure creates several macrospores and enables new root growth of next crops. Improving the soil organic matter and nutrient pools is also a benefit of crop rotation that results in increasing water-holding capacity of the soil.

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) investigated about this better soil caused by crop rotation. The results of the reports sustain that several factors affect the rate of decomposition of organic amendments.

The research shows that many of these organisms decompose organic matter, resulting in nutrient release to the crop.

#9 Independence of the external inputs

The reliance of conventional agriculture systems on purchased inputs external to the firm presents possible challenges to the long-term sustainability of the system.

Crop rotation systems are one cropping system alternative. This can cut agriculture’s dependence on external inputs through internal nutrient recycling.

Also the maintenance of the long-term productivity of the land, and breaking weed and disease cycles. By choosing the crop rotation systems can include impact on soil quality and fertility, environmental quality, and farm profitability.

Crop rotation in the present

Today, the way how crops are rotated depends on upon many factors. This is the type of soil, the climate, precipitation, and the markets for various crops. Some modern farmers may rotate corn and soybeans in a single field in alternate years. Other, instead of this, rather rotate six or more crops in a field over multiple years.

Crop rotation has many environmental benefits and is being widely taking in the new agriculture methods. It also has its risks such as less profitability because of decreased acreage of a highly valuable crop.

In spite of these, crop rotation is highly beneficial for the environment. The suitable rotation benefits the sustainability and productivity of the farm. Also, this system enhances soil fertility by promoting the growth of various soil organisms and offer a climate friendly source of energy.

Have you tried this technique before? If you do or if you haven’t, don’t worry to comment your experiences about it. If you like this post, we don’t mind if you share it.