Crop Rotations fertCrop rotations have been part of agricultural practice in Europe since the middle ages and are important in protecting the land against soil erosion, pathogen build-up and pressure from disease and weeds.  Crop rotations generally have a positive effect on soil functioning, compared to monocultures, which is mainly due to the suppression of soil-borne diseases and weed infestations. Crop rotations also tend to have a positive effect on soil structure and soil tilth, because of the diversity of rooting patterns and soil organic matter sources.  Root crops in crop rotations often have a negative effect on soil structure due to the disturbance of soil structure during harvesting and the low amounts of residual biomass left in the soil. This effect may be mitigated/restored again by a subsequent cereal crop or oilseed crops.  

 

General Principles for crop rotations:

From Building Soils for Better Crops (2000; Fred Magdoff and Harold van Es), chapter 11, “Crop Rotation,” pp. 102–3:

  • Follow a legume crop with a high nitrogen demanding crop
  • Grow less nitrogen demanding crops in the second or third year after a legume sod
  • Grow the same annual crop for only one year 
  • Don’t follow one crop with another closely related species
  • Use crop sequences that promote healthier crops
  • Use crop sequences that aid in controlling weeds
  • Use longer periods of perennial crops on sloping land
  • Try to grow a deep-rooted crop as part of the rotation
  • Grow some crops that will leave a significant amount of residue
  • When growing a wide mix of crops, try grouping into blocks according to the plant family, the timing of crops, (all early season crops together, for example), type of crop (root vs. fruit vs. leaf), or crops with similar cultural practices

 

The table below provides links to existing practical information on the use of cover crops in agriculture.   

 

 TitleLanguageCountry Format  Description Organisation
Crop Rotation: Practical Information EN Europe Video Video demonstrating why and how to design a good crop rotation Best4Soil logo
Tips for Sequencing Crops  EN  USA  Guidance document  A simple summary of steps to planning a crop rotation

 University of Vermont Named Regional SARE Host | University Communications  | The University of Vermont

SARE

Planning and Implementing Crop Rotations  EN  UK  Case study/video  Vlog format case study of Dayelsford Organics focusing on organic crop rotations

Agricology Podcast - Agricology | Listen Notes 

Agricology

Rotations EN UK Guide Short overview of the decision of using rotations

Frontier Agriculture (@FrontierAg) | Twitter 

Frontier Ag

Arable Cropping & the Environment - a guide: Rotations EN UK Guide Provides how a well-planned crop rotation can benefit the farmer and also any risks

DEFRA - Kent & Essex IFCA

Defra

Organic Arable Productions: Crop Rotations EN UK Factsheet Provides an example of a 6 year organic rotation along with key details about crop rotations

The Soil Association Limited (SA) | LIAISON2020 

Soil Association

Crop Rotation Effects on Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition EN UK Article Details the basics surrounding nutrient release from different crops that can be used in rotations and the best crops to use dependant on different nutrient uptakes

University of Vermont Named Regional SARE Host | University Communications  | The University of Vermont 

SARE

Crop Rotation EN Europe Website Suggests accompanying EU Documentation and why certain crop rotations should be used

Low Impact Farming | PAN Europe

 Low impact farming

Redesigning cropping systems in three French regions EN France Case study Follows 3 different case studies in France with various current cropping systems used

The ENDURE Network – a major European collaboration in Integrated Pest  Mangement | The James Hutton Institute 

Endure Network

Integrated Crop Management: Crop Rotation EN UK Guide Covers a wide range of crop rotation details along with different crops and where their place should be in rotational planning

DEFRA - Kent & Essex IFCA

Defra

Crop Rotations and Crop Planning EN US Article Details information surrounding crop rotations and why it should be done

Central Maryland Research & Education Center - Extension | University of Maryland  Extension

 University of Maryland Extension

Crop Rotation EN Europe Guide Focuses on the benefits to farmers, and crop rotation vs crop diversification along with CAP barriers to farmers

Friends of the Earth: Anti-nuclear group turned anti-technology activists |  Genetic Literacy Project 

FOE Europe