If one were to assess the value of crop rotation, i.e. the rotation of plants grown in succession, in terms of human health, ecological health prophylaxis, one could simply say: It is the best soil-healing drug and the best guarantee of good health of plants, their good growth and yield and their protection against weakness, diseases and pests. The different efforts of every horticulturist or farmer, including organic farmers, will really be of no use if they make mistakes at the very beginning of the changeover, planning the crop rotation. This applies both to the mini garden by the house and to the large field.
Why does success in organic farming depend so much on proper crop rotation? Some people claim that most of the failures also originate here. First of all, proper crop rotation prevents so-called soil fatigue and allows plants to make better use of the ingredients in the soil. This makes them healthier and more resistant to disease and pest infestation.
Secondly, it has a great influence on the propagation cycles of many soil pests. By disrupting them, it significantly reduces the number of feeding and unwanted insects in the garden. Their number is often set at such a low level that they become completely harmless to the plants that are planted. Many pests also die almost completely.
Thirdly, alteration prevents the spread of many bacterial, fungal, viral and often very dangerous diseases. It is just that with a long crop rotation they do not find a suitable host and over time the bed becomes free of them.
Of course, on a small plot of land it is more difficult to plan a very long crop rotation. It is easier to do it in a large garden or a hectare of agricultural vegetable farm. Although I have often seen examples of the opposite. Small gardens had perfectly developed varied crop rotations, and this was additionally including various ornamental plants of flowers and herbs, while large gardens had very short, monocultural, too simplistic crop rotations. Essentially, everything depends on the gardener. To make a good crop rotation, you have to put some effort into it. A certain invention is also necessary. It must always be adapted to individual conditions if we want to enjoy a good and healthy crop.
9 Advantages from the Crop Rotation
- Reduction in the occurrence of diseases and pests by introducing alternating crops from different botanical groups.
- The best possible use of the nutrients in the soil through appropriate sequencing or the proximity of plants with different nutrient requirements.
- Improving the biological viability of the soil in the garden by introducing an additional portion of organic matter, various nutrients, including nitrogen. This is facilitated by leaving various residues under the ground, e.g. roots of herbs, papilionaceous plants, post-harvest plants for green manure, Also it is helpful to introduce various harvest residues into the soil, e.g. leaves, incisions, post-harvest residues, plants sown for green manure.
- Improvement of soil life through maximally extended soil cover, among others by introducing forecrops, mid-crops, catch crops, co-crops, green fertilization, especially winter crops and grasses with legumes.
- Enrichment of the soil with nitrogen compounds through the cultivation of legumes. This nitrogen is well absorbed by the plants and, in addition, does not pose a threat to the environment, there is no concern of over-fertiliation or excessive leaching.
- Reducing the negative effects of water and air erosion, leaching and extraction of fertile soil components.
- The right choice of plants in crop rotation facilitates the optimal use of tools, equipment and our time spent in the garden. There is not too much accumulation of work at the same time.
- Crop diversity reduces the risk of yield losses due to climatic anomalies, e.g. drought, downpours.
- Provides greater variety, as well as health and biological value of vegetables and fruit that come to our tables.
2 Basic Principles of Crop Rotation
- The basic principle is always that the longer the crop rotation, the longer the change of plants, i.e. the less often the same plant, more specifically a plant from the same family, goes to a particular bed, field, the more advantageous and safe it is.
- A good knowledge of the nutritional, habitat, climatic and other plant characteristics, e.g. sensitivity to diseases, and the type of effect they have on the soil, allows for the most correct planning of change, rotation.
14 Factors to be taken into account when making the Crop Rotation
- Plant nutrition requirements – through the right crop rotation with different needs for these components, we make the best use of the soil.
- Requirements for water, light, air.
- The way of taking food from the soil, the way of rooting.
- The height of the plants and the shade they cause, which is very important especially in coordinate and strip tillage.
- Impact of local climate and soil type.
- Soil condition, including soil fatigue (due to previous cultivation) and weed infestation.
- Harvesting period of individual plants, especially preceding plants.
- The possibility of growing forecrops, sowing, catch crops and after-crops to keep the soil under cover as long as possible: this also prevents wind and water erosion.
- Belonging to a botanical family; this allows plants from different families to be cultivated alternately, thus protecting the plants from diseases and pests and the soil from fatigue.
- Natural resistance of plants to diseases and pests.
- The possibility of growing nitrogen-fixing legumes in the soil, however, it is assumed that the legumes should not occupy more than 20-25 percent of the area.
- The possibility of growing as many older, traditional varieties as possible, from which you can harvest your own seeds
- Growing as many plants as possible. This reduces the risk of large crop losses, e.g. due to climatic anomalies or sudden invasion by pests, diseases.
- Increase in soil fertility and biological activity through the systematic supply of various residues, especially those rich in nitrogen.
13 Practical Tips
- It is best to plant plants requiring high rations on a bed of well-fertilized compost or not very fresh cattle manure (ideally, cows that are fed on grass and hay, vegetable waste, fodder plants, then the taste of vegetables will be the best, similar to that after compost). It is advantageous that butterfly plants enriching the soil with nitrogen grew here in the previous year.
- Plan to have the plants return to the field after 4-5 years, especially from the cabbage and root family. Such time is necessary especially in small gardens, where cultivation is intensive. For perennial crops, e.g. asparagus, stick to the principle that the plant can return to the same place after as many years as it has grown in that place. If the strawberry plantation on the bed has been there for 3 years, it should come back after a minimum of 3 years
- Plan your crop rotation in such a way that plants belonging to the same family, e.g. cabbage and celery plants, do not grow in the same place year after year, preferably every few years. Take this into account when planning mid-crops, catch crops and strip crops.
- If a botanical family contains only one or two plants, it is worthwhile to place them in a different group in order to keep the size of the fields in balance when planning.
- Include mainly rye in the grain rotation. Rye is one of the wildest, most primitive cereals and therefore the most beneficial for soil healing. Rye is better sown in the last year of the crop rotation, e.g. after the legumes. Grains have an excellent phytosanitary role, cleanse the soil, facilitate the development of beneficial soil organisms, such as mycorrhizal fungi, and protect against attacks by certain mycorrhizal pests in the following year. Cereals can be an excellent catch crop to cover the soil for winter. In the main crop (when no papilionaceous plants have been sown there before), a papilionaceous plant (according to the most recent botanical division bean plant), e.g. serradella, vetch, can be planted as a catch crop. These plants can also be sprouted. Cereals can also be treated as green manure, then they can be sown in a mixture with other plants, including butterfly plants.
- Vegetables and other plants, including protective, ornamental plants, growing higher than others, try to plant always in the northern part of the field, bedding, vegetable garden, so as they do not shade others, lower plants.
- Root plants take up quite a lot of components from the soil, so it is worth planting them in the second year, on a field with manure and compost. It is not worthwhile to plant some roots, such as carrots, on fields fertilized in a given year (this also applies to fertilization with compost, especially not very well distributed) because then they are attacked more by some pests.
- Plants of the bean family, including beans and peas, are a very good forecrop for many plants requiring stronger fertilization, especially those that need a lot of nitrogen.
- After cabbage plants and potatoes, the field can be quite well weeded because their large leaves shade the soil. It is worth planting bulbous plants after them.
- After pumpkins and cucumbers, most plants can be successfully planted.
- Potatoes grow quite well after maize.
- Tomatoes are among the plants that successfully grow without alteration, but this does not mean to grow them year after year for too long, because in a given field, bed or under film, disease spores remain and can gradually threaten the plants more and more.
- Crop rotation should be adapted to your own soil and climate conditions, including microclimatic conditions, because only then will you get the best yield and the healthiest plants.