By Dwayne Beck
The hybrid stacked rotation may be the most powerful rotation type. Examples of hybrid stacked rotations include Canola-Winter Wheat-Soybean-Corn-Corn; and Spring Wheat-Winter Wheat-Pea-Corn-Millet-Sunflower.
The Spring Wheat-Winter Wheat-Pea-Corn-Millet-Sunflower rotation is designed for cool and dry areas. The two cereals in a row follow a four-year break for cereal. This builds deep soil moisture and surface residue. Winter hardiness of the winter wheat is less of a concern than with other sequences. Peas and other large-seeded, cool-season legumes perform well in heavy residues. They turn this cool environment to their advantage and transform it into a warm environment for the subsequent corn crop. Peas make this transformation without using the deep moisture needed for the corn.
Atrazine can be safely used in the corn year because millet (or corn or forage sorghum) tolerates atrazine. Millet is a low intensity crop that again allows excess moisture to recharge the subsoil. Sunflower is now seeded into a nice environment that has deep moisture most years. Any volunteer millet can be easily controlled. Broadleaf weeds should have been controlled easily in the corn and millet crops.
The warm and dry environment left by the sunflowers allows early seeding of the spring cereal crop. Cereal herbicides with longer residual can be used in the spring cereal going to winter wheat than if a broadleaf were to be used the next year.
If a producer feels it would be too risky to try to grow spring wheat after sunflower, he can use a less intense broadleaf (flax for instance) or include a green fallow year following the sunflowers.
I hope that this series on rotations has been helpful. It is meant to be an overview of some rotations strategies that will allow producers and those working with them to better understand the "art" of rotation planning.
I have no better chance of designing the best rotation for you than I have of choosing the best spouse for you. There are things in life that you have to do on your own. I can point out some factors you should consider when choosing a rotation.
There is no "best" rotation. No one can design a rotation that will work every year under every circumstance. It is a probability game. There are bad rotations that work well for a while. There are good rotations that fail at times due to weather or other uncontrollable factors. Poor gamblers make money at times; good gamblers lose money at times.
Rotations can be designed that work well in dry years, but they fail to take advantage of good years. Or even worse, they fail badly in good to wetter than normal years.
Producers with more risk tolerance (financially and psychologically) will be more comfortable with riskier rotations. Properly designed "risky" rotations can make more money in the long run but can result in substantial losses over the short-term.
The best approach to spreading risks is to use more than one rotation (preferably sequentially to make an even longer complex rotation).
Rotations used may differ depending on the soils involved. In other words, some of your land may require a different rotational approach than other land you farm. Some of the reasons for this include inherent soil characteristics, past history, weed spectrum, distance from the farmstead, landlord, etc.
Most farmers are good at designing rotations once they start trying.
The rotations used may have to change as market, soil, climate, and enterprise, conditions change. That is to be expected. When designing a rotation, be thinking of ways you could change it.
Don't be afraid to ask for advice, but accept no recipes from others. Do your own cooking.
Beck is manager of the Dakota Lakes, a research farm located near Pierre, S.D.
Read The Entire Series:
Part 1: Beck's 'Top 10 List' For Designing Crop Rotations
Part 2: Simple Rotation Advantages
Part 3: Add Diversity With Compound, Complex Rotations
Part 4: Stacked rotations
Part 5: How Stacked Rotations Disrupt Pests
Part 6: Hybrid Stated Rotations Pack Punch