GardeningInstructional MaterialvaMudhumeni

THE IMPORTANCE OF CROP ROTATION

By Albert Makendenge

Crop rotation is the practice of planting different crops sequentially on the same plot of land to improve soil health, optimize nutrients in the soil and combat pest and weed pressure. These and many more benefits of this ancient farming practice are explained below.

  • Increases soil fertility

Prolonged planting of the same crop type leads to the depletion of specific nutrients in the soil. Each and every crop type has nutrients that it fixes into the soil and that it draws from the soil. Therefore crop rotation comes in to replenish nutrients that are not available or to absorb nutrients that are in abundance.

  • Increases crop yield

Besides contributing to a wider variety of crops for the farmer, crop rotation ensures higher yields for a particular crop since it ensures the availability of nutrients which provide nourishment to all plants.

  • Reduces soil erosion

Including, in the crop rotation programme, crops (such as beans and peas) that give full cover to the ground helps to prevent the carrying away of the most important top soil layer by wind or water.

  • Limits the concentration of pests and diseases

Similar plants tend to have the same pathogens, pathogens that go through cycles of similar events that happen in constant rotation. Therefore crop rotation intercepts and disrupts the pest life cycle and their habitat.

  • Reduces the stress of weeds

Crop rotation is traditional weed control technique that also helps in the weed-free cultivation of crops. It involves maintaining field conditions such that weeds are less likely to grow and increase in number. In other words, crop rotation allows crops to crowd out weeds during competition of nutrients and other resources.

  • Improves the soil structure

Through the use of different crops that require different land preparation techniques, crops that come with various depths of the root structure and that leave behind different types of nutrients, crop rotation thus helps to prevent soil compaction and improve the physical condition of the soil.

  • Diversification and reduced cost of production

Growing more than just one crop obviously variety for both subsistence and commercial purposes of the farmer and this also helps to spread risk and costs as non-performing and well performing crops complement each other well.

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