Crop rotation provides better yield, less input cost
While outlining the benefits of crop rotation, Furnas County Extension Educator Noel Mues, provided a few tips for getting the best possible results in a continuous cropping situation.
Although there may be some situations in which continuous cropping can pay, Mues said, crop rotation almost always provides the best yields. With rotation, producers can get better control of disease, insects and weeds, he said. Soil fertility improves if legumes are included in the rotation.
Because different crops require different amounts of moisture at different times, rotation allows for better management of soil water, Mues said. It also contributes to improved tilth and aggregate stability and reduced soil erosion.
Rotating crops spreads production and market risk over more than one crop.
Despite these advantages, growers occasionally encounter situations when they would like to grow the same crop for two consecutive years in the same field. High wheat prices and reduced input cost, for example, might prompt a grower to plant wheat back into wheat stubble.
Wheat producers should be aware though of the many residue-borne diseases encouraged by that practice. Planting resistant cultivars will minimize such infestations, Mues said. It's important to select a cultivar that's adapted to the particular location. Planting dates are more important than ever in continuous wheat because soil-borne diseases have less time to get established in later crops. Fungicide seed treatments will also protect plants from pathogens.
Winter annual weeds present another thorny problem in continuous wheat that is best solved with crop rotation as is the risk of several insect pests.
Corn yields suffer in continuous cropping systems, as do soybean yields, Mues said. Continuous corn runs the risk of herbicide carryover, so producers need to incur the additional cost of buying Roundup Ready corn. In the best years, corn following corn will yield as well as corn following soybeans. But, dry years or those with wet springs, reduce corn yield.
The most common problems with continuous soybeans include increased pest problems and increased soil erosion.
When considering continuous cropping, crop growers should carefully consider the problems that go with these systems. Some of them can be mitigated, but rotations present less risk of crop loss or failure.