Have you ever noticed black dust-like substances within the peels of onion? I was shocked to see it after moving to Delhi. It took me time to digest the fact that it was a residue of pollution. It was easily washed off. But it left me wondering about the rest of the fresh appearing veggies and fruits. Who knows how the farm products are grown? How many pesticides are used? Or what dangerous chemicals are poured to ensure the enticing color and texture of the product?
Moving to organic farm products is a better choice. At least you will know that you are not consuming chemicals and pesticides instead nutrients, minerals, or vitamins. In organic farming, a farmer does not use any synthetic pesticides or any harmful chemicals to improve the appearance of the farm product. They use natural fertilizers (like manure, food waste), organic pesticides (made from neem or other biodegradable substances ), and farming practices like crop rotation. The purpose is to maintain the health of the soil while generating healthy farm products. Crop rotation in organic farming focuses on sustainability.
What is Crop Rotation?
Crop rotation is a sustainable farming practice where different crop types are grown on the same land over different seasons. For instance, growing wheat, turnips, barley, and clover on the same farmland but over different seasons. The farmer can grow wheat in winter. After harvesting, grows turnips, then plants barley in the next season. By rotating different crops on the same piece of land, the nutrients in the soil get replenished. The first crop takes some nutrients, the second one takes other nutrients from the soil, allowing it to replenish the lost nutrients. The best example of nutrient replenishment is in the case of legumes. Legumes fix nitrogen in the soil by collecting in the root nodules. When the next crop is planted, it can consume the abundant nitrogen remaining in the soil. It will create protein-rich farm products as a result.
There are two types of crop rotation – simple and integrated. In simple crop rotation, various crops are rotated over different seasons. It can be two crop rotations (paddy and pulses), three crop rotations (Cotton – Fenugreek, Sorghum – Wheat, Sugarcane), four crop rotations (wheat, turnips, barley, and clover).
Integrated crop rotation is to gain ecological balance with economical benefit. It includes applying pest control, improving the soil quality by adding fertilizers to boost the yield.
Read Also: Reasons Why Organic Food Is Expensive
Benefits of Crop Rotation
Diseases and Pest Control – This practice prevents diseases in plants. Most plant diseases occur because of a deficiency of nutrients. The rotation ensures that the nutrients are replenished in the cycle, preventing diseases from occurring. It also reduces the build-up of insects by breaking the life cycle of the pests.
Improved Soil Fertility – Nutrients are cycled all around the year. By planting legumes, the nitrogen content of the soil replenishes. The soil gets back the nutrients and minerals lost by different plants planted on it.
Control of Soil Erosion – With the lack of plantation, the top layer of soil gets blown away. This phenomenon is called soil erosion. The top layer lost because of soil erosion is the most fertile part of the land. Losing this layer will affect the quality of the yields. By planting crops throughout the year prevent this loss of fertile soil.
Control of Weeds – By integrating cover crops in the rotation decrease the growth of weeds. These cover crops inhibit the growth of weeds and give crops a competitive advantage.
Increased Yields from the farm – The farm production increases dramatically when fewer or no weeds are competing with the primary crop and fewer chances of plant illnesses.
Improves Biodiversity of Soil – This process increases beneficial microorganisms in the soil. Because of the various crop varieties, microorganisms thrive in the soil improving the soil’s biodiversity.
Disadvantages of Crop Rotation
Associated Risks – Different plant type requires different tools and techniques. It will be a financial burden to keep renting tools every season or buying an expensive tool for one crop type. The farmer will have to put in higher investments by buying different seeds with no guarantee of success. Also, if a pest or disease affects one crop, the whole field will risk getting affected. Also, the yield may not meet the farmer’s expectations.
Expertise required – To grow different crop types, the farmer needs knowledge of the various crops. They need to learn about the plant cycle, the diseases that affect them, the soil quality, and the necessary information to grow the crops properly. The farmer will not be able to gain specialization in any specific crop. They will have to invest time and money to specialize in each crop, which will place a huge burden on them.
Improper Implementation – The farmer cannot experiment when doing crop rotation. They need to have considerable knowledge of each crop and then implement the farming practice. If they somehow cannot implement the plan properly, the whole process will be in jeopardy. In crop rotation practice, the farmer needs to learn about soil quality. They need to know what nutrients are available in the soil to plant the next crop. If they missed out on this crucial information, the implementation will fail.
Growing conditions – The growth of plants heavily depends on the climate and topography of the place. Many places have a culture of growing only a single crop. For most places, implementing crop rotation is not possible. The disadvantages of crop rotation can be a major setback for farmers. But if they gain the expertise to successfully implement this farming practice, they can get better yields. For small farmers, applying this type of organic farming is very disadvantageous, not to mention, financially burdening.
Crop Rotation in Your Garden
Crop rotation is a sustainable process. The soil quality is retained, making it useful for the long term. The yields produced are naturally of high quality. It is hard to manage too many different crops, but you can still try this practice in your garden.
You can manage small fields to grow vegetables. You can alternate between different root crops (potato, carrots), leafy crops (spinach, kale), and fruit crops (tomato, brinjal). You can grow their different fields, mix the soil and even look out for plant diseases and pests. Many organic fertilizers and pesticides are available in the market that you can use. It’s a bit difficult for novices to grow their organic garden but worth the effort. You can get to eat nutritious farm products fresh out of the field. Or you can order organic farm veggies online. You will not be disappointed with the freshness and the quality of the leafy veggies and fruits.
Organic farming was introduced as a response to the intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides leading to environmental degradation. Owing to this constant exposure of the farm produce to pesticides, the quality and taste were compromised. Encouraged by an instinct to ensure the wellbeing of every single being on the planet, we begin GFO.