30 Jul Crop Rotation Improves Soil Health
For thousands of years, crop rotation has been used to improve soil nutrient management while also controlling the outbreak of disease. A group of scientists in Norwich, England recently discovered how this happens. All soil is filled with billions of different microscopic species. What was discovered was that different crops will favor the growth of different types of these species. When wheat was grown during the study, it would promote an increase in bacteria. When oats or peas were grown, there would be an increase in nematodes and protozoa. They discovered that different crops would promote the growth of different species, showing that greater diversity in the crops planted led to greater diversity of soil life.
Switching between varieties of crops continuously changes the population balance of microscopic life in the soil. Growing the same crop consecutively, or monoculture, allows the same soil species to become dominant within the soil. Should any of these species be pathogenic, they will be better able to attack the crop because of their higher population numbers as well as a lack of competing species. Crop rotations promote diversity in the soil, breaking up disease cycles and helping prevent any one species from becoming too dominant.
Different soil organisms also perform different natural processes that are necessary for healthy crop production. Nitrogen fixation, nutrient cycling and nutrient uptake are several examples. Having a greater diversity of microorganisms living within the soil ensures that more nutrients are made available and gives crops the best chance to thrive.
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