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Corn+Soybean Digest

Continuous Corn or Rotate in 2008? The Principle of Crop Rotation

Crop rotation is a universal management practice that has been recognized and exploited for centuries and is a proven process that increases crop yields. In the Midwest, a biennial rotation of corn (Zea mays L.) and soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] produces significant increases in the yields of both crops.

The mechanism for the rotation effect is unknown. One hypothesis is that one factor causes the effect. Another hypothesis is that multiple factors cause the effect and risk of expression depends upon the environment. Research evidence began mounting in the 1970s, which indicated that in spite of all the management inputs a farmer might impose, there was still a yield advantage to be obtained from rotations. These studies showed that corn yields are usually higher when the crop is rotated with some other crop rather than grown continuously. Yield advantages to corn from rotating with some other crop are at least 10%. In addition, soybean yields also improved by 10% when the crop is rotated out of a continuous pattern.

More research that is recent has shown this increase to be even greater than expected with responses up to 19%. The rotation effect lasts two years increasing corn grain yield 10-19% for 1C and 0-7% for 2C.

Some other considerations when making rotation decisions include:

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