Rotate your crops; it increases yields and lowers cost per acre

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Having a rotation can show great benefits. Anyone who is a Cleveland Cavaliers fan knows that having a good rotation can be highly beneficial.

The CAVS made it all the way to the NBA Finals, just to lose in game 6 to the Golden State Warriors. They were highly outmanned due to injuries to key players and were only able to play seven different players. The Cavaliers showed extreme exhaustion in the final three games as the Warriors won three straight to win the series 4-2. This is a prime example of how important it is to have a proper rotation in place.

The same concept goes for your crops. Having no rotation on your crops will absolutely exhaust your soils and limits its natural abilities to help your crops grow. Yes, there are ways to improve your soils capabilities, with fertilizer and nitrogen applications, but in a lot of situations, it just isn’t enough. Plus who wants to spend extra cash when they don’t have to?

Choosing a rotation

Just like the Cleveland Cavaliers, you as a farmer would like to choose the best rotation possible so that you can have the highest success. Just because a rotation works at one farm, doesn’t mean it will work for yours.

Some farms are in floodplain areas where alfalfa would not be a wise decision to include in a rotation, where other farmers have suitable areas for alfalfa and deem it as a quality option. That is just one example of the many thoughts that must go through your mind when choosing a rotation.

Increase your yields

There are many benefits that you could see by implementing a crop rotation in your fields. One benefit is the increase in yield. If you are used to planting straight corn, try planting a rotation of corn and soybean. This rotation usually produces an increase in yield between 5 percent and 20 percent more than continuous corn. You could also include wheat into the rotation to see an increase in yield also. There are unlimited options when deciding a rotation that fits your farm.

Reduce your costs

Crops grown in a rotation will reduce your costs in several ways. A rotation such as soybean/corn/soybean/corn will reduce the amount of nitrogen that will need to be applied as opposed to a straight corn system, since soybean is a nitrogen producer. Another option to reduce costs is to no till. This saves a lot on the operation costs of planting as you do not have to till then plant. No till planting saves with gas, equipment, labor, and also has a variety of soil health benefits as well.

Control those weeds and insects

Weeds reduce yields of crops by competing for nutrients, water, and sunlight. Weeds also create problems with insects and diseases. With a crop rotation, producers are able to diversify their herbicide program. A lot of perennial weeds are vulnerable to late summer or fall herbicide applications.

A broad leaf spray in June and or Roundup in the fall are popular choices in weed control. Some crops such as alfalfa or small grains out compete weeds and help to limit the herbicide application.

No till planting normally relies more on chemical applications to prevent weeds, where conventional tillage will manually reduce many biennial and perennial weeds. Crop rotation also helps with insects. It is most effective against several low mobility insects, larvae and eggs. It completely depends on what type of crop you have in your rotation.

Don’t forget about cover crops!

I cannot talk enough about how great cover cropping is for soil health, reducing erosion, conserving moisture, weed control and insect control. There are so many options to choose from with cover crops. It is all dependent upon what you want to gain when it comes to choosing the types of cover crop and the diversity of the cover crop mix that you choose.

Cover cropping is a great conservation practice that could be implemented into your rotation to improve a variety of things that in turn, will improve your yield and crop success.

Come back stronger next year

The hope for your crops, just like the Cleveland Cavaliers, is that next year will be a better and more productive year than the previous year. As the Cavs will be looking to win their first NBA title, you will be looking to achieve higher yields and less cost for your farming operation. Look into which rotations would suit you best and run with it. You may be pleasantly surprised with your results.

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Jason Tyrell is Agricultural Resource Specialist for the Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District. He’s a graduate of West Virginia University with a degree in agricultural business management.

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