Every growing season our farm rotates crops within a given field. We rotate between canola, wheat and barley crops each year, which means that there is a full rotation every three years. If we were to plant the same crop every year that would mean the soil structure would deteriorate faster from the same nutrients being used over and over again. Rotating our crops every year helps to minimize any diseases from forming in the soil and plants. Some of the other benefits are to return nutrients into the soil, interrupt pest cycles, and reduce the probability of resilient pests. The different root depths of each crop means that nutrients can be taken from varying layers of the soil. All of this leads to healthier soil and more biodiversity on the farm. This is an important practice for us to be sustainable since it can result in using less fertilizer to replace nutrients and weed management methods, like tillage, which can be harmful to the soil structure. Being able to reduce tillage cuts down on erosion and allows for a greater yield, giving our family farm the opportunity for more success despite being a small-scale farm.
Our family has been considering adding a fourth crop to our existing rotation. The possible crop would be either faba beans for animal feed or sunflowers which would be sold as bird seed. To try this out we would start out small, to see if it produces a successful enough yield, before we commit to planting this crop on a larger field.