Rotation of Crops, Succession, and Companion Cropping
The moment you hear about crop rotation, you start to think about a method where you are going to be growing different crops in a more or less regular sequence on the same land. This is normally applied to systematic crop production throughout the growing seasons every year.
Different crops growing in different portions of land…
Along with that, succession cropping is going to mean that you have already planted one variety of plants, and within the next few days, you are going to plant those same variety of plants again, so that by the time the first series is ready for harvesting, you have lots of plants – all of them have been planted in succession – growing in your garden so that you do not have any hiatus between regular harvesting.
The difference between rotation in succession is that the former is going to cover a period of two – three or more years. On the other hand, succession is going to refer to the growing of two or more crops on the same land in one year.
Systematic crop rotation is not so common in vegetable growing, as it normally is in general farming. However, with the use of systematic crop rotation in your own garden, you are going to find yourself with plenty of healthy land. Also, crops growing in large quantities and different varieties in the same. Lastly, more scope for growing more plants instead of restricting yourself to just one cash crop and a couple of more side crops.
Benefits of Crop Rotation
The benefits derived from crop rotation are due largely to the control of disease and insects and to the better use of the resources available in the soil at that particular moment of the growing season.
One of the tendency of a number of vegetable gardeners and farmers is, "we see ANY insect, let us spray!" And we pick up the nearest highly toxic chemical-based pesticide, and start to pollute the atmosphere, along with the earth, with sprays. Along with poisoning the earth and the air, we are poisoning ourselves because after all, we are the ones who are going to be eating that poisonous harvest.
If we had used the sensible idea of systematic rotation in which the host plant was grown on the same land no sooner than once every 3 – 4 years, we would be controlling many serious diseases, practically, naturally, and properly.
That is because rotation is very effective in disease control mainly with those diseases where the spores, or other propagating parts of the disease bearing viruses and bacteria live only one or two years.
Relation with Crop Plants with Their Following Plants
In Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll spoke about a number of flowers who had the bad habit of arguing with the other flowers of different species planted near their beds. According to him, these flowers were capable of cowing down the other flowers and making them miserable.
Well, this may be fantasy, but there is some basic scientific fact that there are some plants, which may leave the land deficient after they have been grown there, and experiment results, going back to the 1920s and 1930s have shown that there are plenty of crop plants which have a marked effect on the yield of the plants that follow them.
For example, if you plant rutabagas, cabbage, and buckwheat on a field, and after you have harvested them, you sow onion crops, immediately following, you are going to find a markedly depressed yield of an onion harvest.
That is why through lots of experimentation and trial and error, it has been found why there is either a positive effect or a divergent negative affect of crop plants on those that follow. These include the difference in uptake of the nutrients from the soil, and difference in quantity of the organic matter left behind in the soil, after harvest.
Also, the difference in toxic materials produced on the decomposition of the plant remains, the difference in extended distribution of the root systems and the different effects of the soil reaction, especially the greater removal of bases by some crops than by others are all important factors which are going to affect the harvest of the crops following.
Lettuces and radishes are excellent companion plants with these cabbages.
This is also known as inter-cropping. This is done, when two or more crops are grown together on the same land. This may embrace successional cropping as in the planting of lettuce, cabbages and radishes all done at the same time. The radishes are going to mature and are removed first. After that, the lettuces going to follow. Both are going to be out of the way before the cabbage needs all the space to grow
Intercropping is practiced mainly by market gardeners, on land, where each inch of soil is very valuable and where much of the work is done by hand. In fact, gardeners in the East prefer doing intercropping, more often than gardeners in the West. That is because most of the gardening is done here, even today, by hand and often on a small scale, with the excess produce going to the nearby weekly farmers market twice a week.
Benefits of Intercropping
Intercropping is normally done where the charge of labor is of no concern. However, there are some main advantages and benefits of intercropping – with the utmost economic of space, which is important especially when you are practicing sustainable gardening, you are going to get a number of harvests in succession, and the land is never going to go waste.
There is also going to be saving in plowing and tillage as the same plowing and the fitting of the land is going to serve for two or more crops.
Also, there is going to be more complete utilization of all the nutrients and any surplus supplied and applied to the roots of one crop is going to be available for another and that means increased gross returns from the area being cultivated. This of course is the most important factor, especially in today’s day and age, where sustainable gardening is the need of the hour.
However, there is also going to be a larger demand for nutrients and moisture and also, there is going to be greater difficulty in controlling insects and diseases. The increased demand for much or is going to be serious during dry periods of the year.
Successional cropping as I said before, is the growing of two or more crops on the same land in one growing season. For success, this requires plenty of heavy fertilization and good systematic cultural practices.
Succession cropping is practiced by all successful market gardeners and by many commercial growers who operate on high-priced land where they cannot afford to allow even an inch of land to be left fallow or without any crop growing.
Under such conditions, it is necessary to keep the land occupied with a money crop for a large part of the growing season and by planning the crop and the cropping system carefully. This needs to be done to ensure that 2, 3, or even four crops can be grown in one year, and successfully.
The number of crops that can be grown is going to depend largely on the kind of crops which are being grown and the length of the growing season.
In planting for succession cropping the same processes and principles should be observed as when you are planning a rotation. Special attention should be given to the growing of soil improving crops like alfalfa, vetch, clover, and other green manure plants, as well as peas, legumes, and other nutritional as well as nitrogen fixing plants.
Examples for Succession Cropping
Here are some examples of succession cropping, which you can follow successfully – early lettuces or radishes followed by beans. These should be followed by fall turnips and spinach.
Early cabbages followed by late potatoes, where the growing season is long enough, and then early potatoes followed by late cabbage.
Early carrots or beets, followed by beans and lettuce followed by late celery. Lettuce followed by late celery is practiced extensively in the muck soil and premium land in New York. You can try out all sorts of combinations with a little bit of experience, or to meet the needs of the individual market and its requirements.
This planning has to be worked out in advance so that the land, labor, and the equipment may be utilized to the best advantage. You need to do sustainable gardening here and that is why you have to look at the most cost-effective methods used for succession cropping.
This book has given you plenty of information on how you can get a good harvest through proper rotation of crops, intercropping, and by planting successional crops.
When I was a child, living in the mountains and in jungle areas, we did not have to bother much about water, because it used to rain three hundred days out of three sixty-five. That means any plant, which was planted would take root, and give you a bountiful harvest, because the soil in the jungle had been made up of millenniums of rich organic material.
And then when I grew up and came to the desert areas, where there was a paucity of water and land was at a premium, I found that this was where my university degree in Botany came into hand! At least I could use that knowledge to research on plants of a feather sticking together, no pun intended, and the effect they had on the soil. I knew everything about nitrifying bacteria. I also knew everything about leguminous plants, and green manure.
I did not know about rotation agriculture at that time, because everybody went by hard and fast rules that in such a season, such a plant had to be planted because it had been done so down the ages, and the miserable harvest was due to fate, bad luck, or because the gods were not happy!
Nobody was going to listen to a caterpillar with a college education setting up as a butterfly of knowledge, especially when the idea was to change the method of agriculture. Also, my methods meant doing plenty of work, like setting up compost heaps, with all the organic fertilizer and leaves collected during the autumn season and put into holes to decompose. It looked like too much work. It was much better to burn all those leaves, like so many generations had done before them.
And that is why our village was surrounded with a heavy atmosphere of poisonous smoke after every harvest and nearly every second person was suffering from pulmonary problems, which he blamed on everything else except on the burning crops and burning leaves.
So keep your family safe and plow the crop back into the land, instead of burning it. Live Long and Prosper!