Crop rotation consists of the organization of the succession of crops on a given field. The rotation is organised in a regular cycle which can be more or less long. It is called biennial when two species are cultivated successively from one year to the next, triennial for three species, etc. In an agroecological perspective, it is considered that a crop rotation must be diversified in terms of cultivated plant families.
With a diversified crop rotation, pests and pathogens find it more difficult to find their host species (1). Also, heterogeneous growth periods of crops break the weeds’ development cycle. Finally, compared to a monoculture, a diversified crop rotation makes it possible to limit soil impoverishment. The presence of legumes in the rotation provides nitrogen to the soil (2). The different types of crop residues improve the structure and life of the soil and promote stock recovery of nutrients necessary to the plants. The complementarity between the root systems of the different crops also has a positive effect on the soil’s structure (3). Crop rotation therefore provides three types of benefits for the soil: biological (1), chemical (2) and physical (3).
In order to reduce the use of chemical inputs, the implementation of long-lasting and diversified crop rotations is encouraged through catch crops, the establishment of legumes, undersown crops, etc. The duration of the rotation and the species chosen depend strongly on the context. Consequently, setting up a crop rotation requires technical knowledge and high expertise. The benefits of a rotation are observable in the long term (5 to 10 years) but again depend on the context (economic, geographic, climatic…).
Published on 04 August 2016
Licence creative commons : CC-BY-NC-ND
To quote this definition or part of it :
Camille Bézat, Henry Quenu, Guillaume Martin. 2016. Crop rotation : Definition. Dictionnaire d'Agroecologie, https://dicoagroecologie.fr/en/encyclopedia/crop-rotation/