Modern farming must take into consideration its affects on the environment, and its impact on the soil and soil health. This is most noticeable for those who plant crops, and those who wish to keep their farms profitable yet sustainable.

Crop rotation is one way to do so. But what is crop rotation definition? It is an ancient method of protecting the soil by planting different crops in the same place, in rotating order throughout the year. Now aided by modern technology, this age-old principle has found new life.

Why Do It?

Crop rotation systems offer many benefits to your farm management practice. It gives you a sense of purpose, and can drive your overall soil and crop policy toward long-term productivity. The main goal of crop rotation is to keep your soil fertile and profitable for a longer period of time.

The goal is also to prevent soil erosion, therefore keeping your property safe in the event of a flood or some other natural disaster.

Alternating Crops

The main and the most important principle of crop rotation is to alternate the crops that are planted on a particular area. However, there are many other details to consider. The feature you are looking for in plants is their ability to absorb nutrients from the soil.

Once you know how much each plant absorbs and at what speed, you can start alternating your crops based on that feature. This means planting a crop that needs less nutrients after one that needs more, and vice versa.

Detrimental And Beneficial Effects

All plants have some effect on the soil that could be either a detriment or a benefit. Plants can affect the soil by means of toxic organic matter, soil structure, soil microorganisms or residual soil moisture. When you keep these effects in mind, you are better able to alternate between crops based on how they affect the soil, mitigating negative effects over a period of time.


Another thing to consider when planning your crop rotation is the climate in which you will be working. Not all crops grow with the same speed and quality in all climates. You’ll need to change your crops based on the features of the plants, as well as the features of your specific climate.

It often happens that a farmer chooses their crops based on soil effect alone, and overlooks the yield and profit they will get from those crops.


Similar principle applies for choosing the plants based on labor required for harvest. This could vary greatly from one crop to another, and you should try to ensure you don’t double the amount of work needed.

This is why you must take a careful look at the crops in their entirety. You should study their affect on the soil, the environment, and what yields you can expect. Only then can you effectively rotate your crops.

Two Rotation Types

Ultimately, there are two main types of crop rotation. The first is regenerative: meaning it’s used after the soil has already lost its qualities, and your goal is to repair existing damage.

The second type is holistic: a long term plan allowing you to rotate your crops for years to come, planning the qualities of your soil in advance before problems actually appear. It includes cover crops for soil protection.


Crop rotation is an ancient practice, one finding new popularity with the rise of modern technology. Changing your crops in a circular fashion and also preventing open soils through cover crops allows the soil to recover from damage done by more demanding plants.


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Date:Oct 17, 2019

Category:References, Sustainability

Tags:soil, sustainability

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