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Rotations Balancing Agronomics and Economics

By Kale Wilson PAg., Regional Crop Specialist, Swift Current

January 2017

When you think of crop rotations what comes to mind? What is a crop rotation? Is there an ideal rotation? Why do I need one and how am I going to make money?

It is important to understand that healthy crop rotations make healthier crops and more productive fields.  In Mother Nature there are no monoculture crops like what we are growing in agriculture.  Seeding the same thing every second year is not a rotation.  Planting the same crop, at the same time and spraying the same products encourage pests, diseases, weeds, and fertility problems.  Cool winter temperatures slow the breakdown of residues so they remain to perpetuate pest problems.  Reducing these pressures leads to healthier plants that may not need to be sprayed with a pesticide. 

There is not one ideal rotation that will fit every farm.  Everything must be tailored to your individual farm.  A good rotation may include a pulse, cereal, oilseed, warm/cool season crops, and even forage.  Planning can let you incorporate options to reduce your risk from fusarium, sclerotinia and other disease and pest issues.

Crop Rotation effect on yield

 Crop Seeded
Stubble
Yield
Flax
Pea
124 %
Barley
Flax
106 %
Canola
Barley
100 %
Durum
Canola
103 %
Peas
Wheat
102 %

A crop rotation can increase your yields even if you don’t change anything else.  Larger yields and reduced pest pressure may result in higher returns.  Planting a variety of crops allows a larger number of pesticides to be used, reducing the chance of resistance becoming a major issue.  Planning a rotation allows you to use more agronomic tools to maximize the economic returns.  Having a healthy rotation gives you more flexibility versus a back to back rotation such as canola/wheat or lentil/durum.  This flexibility allows you to have land available for various crops that may experience a spike in prices such as lentils did 2016.

For more information:

  • Contact a Regional Crops Specialist at a nearby Saskatchewan Agriculture Regional Office; or
  • Call the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

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