Beans in crop rotation on conservation agriculture trial plot
Beans in crop rotation on conservation agriculture trial plot | Image Credit – Flickr

You often visualize that the agriculture sector has been of utmost necessity to run the globe. When you are concerned about agriculture, do you think of the term “crop rotation”? Yes, the crop rotation. It is becoming more popular day by day in agriculture worldwide. But that’s not only what we need to seek. 

Are you acquainted with the pros and cons of crop rotation in agriculture? Have you ever thought about it? Let’s go deep into this article and get to know the merits and demerits behind crop rotation. 

Crop rotation is the ancient farming practice or technique that you carry on land to control weeds, pesticides, and diseases. It involves the intentional planting of several crop species targeting various seasons in different field parts in a sequence manner. The practice of crop rotation varies according to the country and the quality of the land that one owns.

Below is the inclusion of the pros and cons of the crop rotation fundamentally carried by the farmers described in brief:

Pro and cons of Crop rotation table

ProsCons
Increment in soil fertilityLacks initial cost efficiency 
Crop diversificationPersisting of pests and diseases
Preservation of the genetic plant resourcesDestroying crops in unexpected weather
Increment in soil nutrientsRequirement for more skills
Combat the soil erosionPoor infrastructure
Pests and diseases controlUnfavorable soil
Reduction in the surface water runoffSoil topography
Improvement in soil’s structure and function Difficulty in crop specialization
Weed controlLess profitability
Pollution reduction
Regulation of the nutrient uptake
Serves as an insurance
Higher crop production

Pros of the crop rotation in agriculture

Increment in soil fertility

Fertile soil
Fertile soil | Image Credit – Pixabay

Planting the same crops over the years again results in soil nutrient depletion. The plantation of the crops releases several nutrients in the soil and thus, increases the soil fertility, thereby making it control when there is excess or deficiency of nutrients. 

When each crop type is planted in the field, undoubtedly, it could improve the soil’s organic matter. During harvesting, the biomass which remains in the field increases the soil fertility since it serves as perfect green manure.

Crop diversification

Crop diversification
Crop diversification | Image Credit – The Hans India

The plantation of the diversified crops in the same season ensures better harvesting than monocropping because it ensures that the maize and other crops can resist extreme weather conditions. It further decreases the drought intensity during prolonged drought conditions and extensive heat waves.  

Preservation of the genetic plant resources

Preservation of plant species
Preservation of plant species | Image Credit – Pixabay

Natural disasters could occur at any time, which we cannot control on our willingness. The disease outbreak can destroy all the local crop species. It differs both in monocropping and crop rotation. In massive monocropping, diseases spread can eradicate all the crops. 

But when the farmers apply the crop rotation technique, some crop species could thrive despite epidemic diseases because the crop rotation entails a variety of planted crops. It can preserve the local plants and ensure genetically resistant crop species. 

Increment in soil nutrients

Soil analysis for nutrients
Soil analysis for nutrients | Image Credit – Flickr

The crucial benefit that the people achieve from the crop rotation is that the land is regenerated as permitted by the crop rotation. The plants can get adequate nutrients for themselves, and it’s not necessary to apply other nutrients to the plants in most cases. 

It is highly suggested to remain the land bare for some specific period. The significant reason is that crop rotation promotes the land in restoring the soil nutrients loss, thereby absorbing the plants harvested in the earlier season. 

Let me clarify this statement. For instance: the plantation of crops like legumes in the agricultural field could increase the nitrogen level in the soil. Since the leguminous plants possess naturally nitrogen fixing bacteria it controls the nitrogen level, either the deficiency or the excessive one. For balancing the plants and the agricultural yield, mixing the various plants is imperative.

Excessive nutrients production and absorption need to be balanced, knowing which type of plants to grow in every season and achieving the crop rotation’s agricultural merits.

Combat the soil erosion

Know more about crop rotation | Image Credit – GrowVeg

You may have known that soil erosion washes all the significant topsoil layers by several means, such as water or the wind. It is to be noted that the soil-covered plants could not remove away the topsoil during torrential rainfall in any season. For this, you could, without doubt, plant peas and beans, which prevent erosion. 

You may be wondering how beans and peas control soil erosion. It provides the ground with full crop cover and prevents soil erosion. Besides these, it aids in the reduction of the raindrop impact in the soil since the roots tightly hold up the top layer of soil and the plants together. 

It is recommended to plant the trees with the crops together. It signifies how essential crop rotations are in farming throughout the globe.

Pests and diseases control

There is a crucial role of crop rotation in controlling pests and diseases. There are various options to control the diseases caused by the pest. One of them entails planting the host plant during a low infestation period. Indeed, it permits the low risk of plants with diseases at several seasons. 

The farmers could grow their crops each season without pesticides. The crop production can be increased to a maximum, and side-by-side, unuse of the chemical fertilizers could also create an eco-friendly environment. 

Reduction in the surface water runoff

Reduces the surface water runoff
Reduces the surface water runoff | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

The crop rotation practice creates a stable soil condition since the soil gets fertilized for a prolonged period. Such stable soil lowers the surface runoff since the underlying soil has a high infiltration capacity. As a result, little water overflows over the soil, vegetation, or other ground covers.

Besides this, reducing the surface water runoff could resist flood disasters. The study suggests that legumes and wheat do not only increase the soil water infiltration capability; instead, they increase the soil roughness. The soil roughness aids in reducing the surface water runoff.

Improvement in soil’s structure and function 

Soil creates an excellent environment to support the plant’s growth. The soil compaction is prevented by crop rotation since it improves the soil’s physical condition. Soil texture and structure possess colossal aid for root proliferation and seed germination.

The other primary aspect the crop rotation could assist soil aeration and the infiltration of the water, aiding adequately to improve the soil composition for the long-term benefits concerning the agricultural yield but varies according to the rotated crops. 

The more the water pores in the soil, the more water drains conveniently. Thus, crop rotation allows perfect water circulation in the soil.

Weed control

An alternate method to control weed
An alternate method to control weed | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Weed has been a severe topic regarding the farmer’s name. When the crop rotation is practiced, the weeds either grow at a minimum or increase massively. The weeds can be a huge enemy to the plant, thereby creating nutrient competition between the plants. 

Besides other available options, the remaining option could be crop rotation which restricts growing the weed population. You can apply the mowing technique. 

The fundamental thing one needs to bear in mind is prolonged tillage practice in the agricultural field could be a harmful technique for controlling the weeds in the soil. But for a short period, one can apply the tillage practice.  

Pollution reduction

The farmers inevitably use fertilizers to increase the agricultural yield, which may cause soil leaching from time to time. As practice of crop rotation, it could increase the soil nutrients to the plants and further prevent the toxic chemical accumulation that the plants secrete. 

Thus, crop rotation could be an effective option for pollution reduction without regular fertilizers. Since the chemical fertilizers hold the harmful chemicals and enhance the toxicity level in the water, crop rotation is regarded as vital, which drops the pollution to a minimum.

Regulation of the nutrient uptake

In the crop rotation, various crops are planted, which requires several nutrients in varying amounts. Crop rotation may undoubtedly increase the plant’s nutrient uptake from the soil. It regulates the nutrient uptake, thereby promoting the plant’s growth more effectively. 

Serves as an insurance

Works as an insurance
Works as an insurance | Image Credit – Freepik

The primary merits of crop rotation are that when one crop harvest is not well, there is another option that the farmer could take advantage of from the other plant species. It ensures the budget and the hard labor work upon good harvesting of the variety of planted plants.

Higher crop production

Higher crop production
Higher crop production | Image Credit –Farmbiz Africa

From a single seasonal harvest at once, the practice of crop rotation does promote and increase crop production. Compared to monoculture, crop rotation may increase the yield each year since there will be variation in the soil fertility and many others. 

Once sufficient nutrients are available to the plants, there can be a higher yield. Over the years, the farmers have achieved a massive increase in their yield by adopting the crop rotation strategy. 

Cons of the crop rotation in agriculture

Lacks initial cost efficiency 

Lacks initial cost efficiency 
Lacks initial cost efficiency | Image Credit – International relocation firm

Crop rotation reflects the planting of the various crops at various seasons. Since several seedlings are to be planted in numerous seasons, there may be the possibility of investing the higher money. 

Along with that variety of machinery needs to be applied to specific crops. During the initiation phase, the cost can be higher. Since there is no assurance of success in harvesting the crops, the investment in the crops gets wasted once lost out. 

The pests and several diseases could ruin the plants’ growth and development. Since in the crop rotation, the plants are planted, mixing with varieties lost out of one species could make the farmers feel upset. And the situation arises where the farmers have to wait for the next season to gain the maximum benefits. 

The poor farmers from the developed and developing countries could not afford to purchase machinery, and they could not reach beyond their financial capabilities. 

Persisting of pests and diseases

Although crop rotation eliminates pests and diseases, it can’t control them at best. There may persist some pests that harm the plants. The planted plants are always food sources and serve as the alternative host for pests. 

The pathogenic bacteria population could invade the crop rotated plants and restrict their proper growth and development.

Destroying crops in unexpected weather

Destroying crops in unexpected weather
Destroying crops in unexpected weather | Image Credit – Flickr

Those who have adopted crop rotation for their farming get terrified about whether the unexpected weather could destroy all their planted crops before harvesting. When the plants cannot persist because of the changing weather conditions, the whole variety of crops could ultimately be ruined.

Just one changing pattern in the weather is enough for the plants to get massively destroyed. It wastes all the efforts and the time of the farmers who deploys for crop rotation farming to gain higher harvesting and advantages. 

Requirement for more skills

Skillfull resource for crop rotation
Skillfull resource for crop rotation | Image Credit – Flickr

Crop rotation indicates that there is to be a variety of crops. It needs full knowledge concerning which type of crops to be planted, how to plant them, and much more. Apart from this, it too requires the knowledge of numerous machinery appliances to be used in the field. 

The functional skills of the machinery, too, are substantial. It indicates where the farmers should invest more time, human resources, and resources to gain skills and apply them in agriculture. 

Poor infrastructure

The crop distribution chain is a matter of issue primarily in the remote parts of the country. Although the farmers have good harvesting, applying the crop rotation technique lacking in the food marketing system has always terrified them of whether their hard work goes wasted. 

Unfavorable soil

It’s not sure that the soil favors every variety of the plant species being planted. The soil structure may not support only one or two species. Under such conditions, the farmers cannot harvest all the variety of plant species, decreasing production. 

Soil topography

Topography Soil Forming Factor | Video Credit – Soil Videos

The crop rotation varies according to the geographical regions. The success of the plant species may rely on the soil topography. Some soil supports only one kind of species and fundamentally restricts more than one crop’s growth in specific areas. 

After investing heavily in crop rotation upon less harvesting, the farmers cannot achieve a higher yield, and it won’t be very worth sparing their time in this farming. It is one of the central aspects that need to be considered before initiating crop rotation farming. 

Difficulty in crop specialization

In every season, a variety of crops are planted for crop rotation. It restricts the farmer from specializing in a particular crop species. The production of a single crop on a massive scale over a certain period gets affected, which the farmers may not be able to produce. 

Since the soil varies over the period, extensive harvesting of the single crop species is almost restricted to the farmers.

Less profitability

Less profitable
Less profitable | Image Credit – Pixabay

Some crop varieties cost heavily. Several crop species have been planted following the crop rotation in the field. Because of this, the crop species that own a higher value in terms of cost can result in less profitability. 

Little plantation of the valuable crops restricts from huge profit since a variety of other crops dominates their plantation. 

Wrap up

Despite the crop rotation practice in agriculture, it still holds the demerits that one can seek. Did you find the comprehensive lists of the pros and cons of crop rotation helpful? What other lists do you think can appropriately target this topic? We would cherish to know what you think. Let’s share and spread the knowledge widely with each other. 

(Last Updated on June 3, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Kalpana Ghimire holds a post-graduate degree in Environmental Science from Nepal. She possesses numerous research experiences working in water pollution, community forestry, environment conservation status, and wildlife ecology. She was an internee in the Department of Environment (EIA monitoring and auditing section) under the Government of Nepal. Kalpana Ghimire is an avid traveler, an enthusiastic wildlife researcher, and has a huge passion for working in the environment sector. She loves far traveling to the natural areas, conducting field wildlife research and reading the novels.