November 28, 2013
Dwayne Beck, manager of the Dakota Lakes Research Farm, Pierre, S.D., is the Northern Plains' go-to guy on crop rotation.
Some of Beck's "rotation rules" are:
Reduced and no-till systems favor the inclusion of alternative crops. Tilled systems may not.
A two-season interval between growing a given crop or crop type is preferred. Some broadleaf crops require more time.
Chemical fallow is not as effective at breaking weed, disease, and insect cycles as are black fallow, cover crop, or production of a properly chosen crop.
Rotations should be sequenced to make it easy to prevent volunteer plants of the previous crop from becoming a weed problem.
Producers with livestock enterprises find it less difficult to introduce diversity into rotations.
Use of forage or flexible forage/grain crops and cover crops enhance the ability to tailor rotational intensity.
Livestock make using rotations with perennial sequences easy. It is probably not possible to be sustainable over long periods of time without using perennial plants in the system.
Crops destined for direct human food use pose the highest risk and offer the highest potential returns.
The desire to increase diversity and intensity needs to be balanced with profitability.
Soil moisture storage is affected by surface residue amounts, inter-crop period, snow catch ability of stubble, rooting depth characteristics, soil characteristics, precipitation patterns, and other factors.
Seedbed conditions at the desired seeding time can be controlled through use of crops with differing characteristics in regard to residue color, level, distribution, and architecture.
Rotations that are not consistent in either crop sequence or crop interval guard against pest species shifts and minimize the probability of developing resistant, tolerant, or adapted pest species.
See the print edition of the November Dakota Farmer magazine for the start of a special series on crop rotations written by Beck. It's also available online.
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