Crop rotation is something that is essential to maximize yield on farmland in western Canada. Proper crop rotation will maximize yield in the long term. There are excellent studies that talk about these issues that have been published by various institutions on the prairies. This concept needs to be in the back of all producer’s minds when they are looking at what to grow next year. When I’m questioned about what crop rotation will do for a producer, my response is that it will give between and 5 and 10 % yield increase and it will provide an increase of income of about 10% on average. This is a general comment and is based on what crop rotation does for both the soil and the economics of your farm. When it comes to the soil on the farm, crop rotation results in reduced insect, weed and disease pressure related to various pests and generally makes for better soil tilth and fertility. This is a result of what crops act as hosts for as well as what nutrients different crops remove from the ground. Alfalfa is a producer of nitrogen but it is a high user of phosphate and potash. Peas also produce their own nitrogen that will allow for higher yields when it becomes available for next year’s crop. Producers will talk about the soil being better after growing peas or better stand establishment of canola crops on land that was into hay a number of years ago. When talking about the economic benefits of crop rotation, there are two aspects that become part of the economic benefits that growers see. The higher yield that is present on farms with good crop rotations will generate more bushels and therefore more net dollars for the grower. The crop diversity that is present on the farms that have a good crop rotation will allow producers to take advantage of our volatile markets. We have seen big price swings in our markets over the last few years. Predicting what crop may end up being the best for the markets and growing season is a difficult prospect at best. Crop rotation reduces the risk of pests in your fields. Having less weeds, bugs and funguses will allow the crops to be healthier and grow better. As we expect more yields from our fields, it becomes more important that we maintain healthy environments in our fields. Over the years, we have seen the crops that we can grow in this area expand. This should be giving us more opportunities for crop choices. It is important that we use these choices to maximize the dollars that are generated from our cropland. If you have any questions about how to maximize your crop rotation on your farm, have a chat with your local agronomist to look at what opportunities exist on your farm to improve your bottom line.
By Dave Cubbon, P Ag