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Crop Rotation as a Non-Synthetic Fertilizer/Pesticide

a man holding carrots freshly harvested from the groundThe final prong of a non-synthetic approach is crop rotation. This practice is ancient in its origin but has been studied scientifically in more recent years and demonstrated to be highly effective. As certain plants use greater or lesser amounts of soil nutrients, planting the same crop on the same soil every year can lead to depletion of certain nutrients, which makes the soil in question gradually more inhospitable to the crop. To counterbalance this, certain plants reintroduce nutrients into the soil as they grow. The logical conclusion to this is crop rotation. In crop rotation, crops are alternated from one plot of land to another in a cycle based on which nutrients they remove from and add to the soil. A basic example of this would be switching potatoes and chickpeas between two plots each year. Usually, crop rotation plans are more elaborate, with more crop species, longer cycles, and even including the use of extra plots which are left unattended for one year. This technique keeps soil nutrient levels from being depleted.

Crop rotation also keeps down the levels of pests in farmed plots. It takes time for fungi, parasites, and destructive insects to propagate and it can take years for them to fully establish themselves. Changing which crops are in which plots can be done in a strategic way, so that these unwanted organisms end up without a suitable food source after one year. This, in turn, reduces the need for more destructive pest control actions.

Crop rotation is perfectly suited to most organic farming operations because they tend to produce a wider range of crops at a smaller scale when compared to conventional farms. To optimize efficiency, many conventional farms use the monoculture model, in which only one crop is grown, farm-wide. This allows for a one-size-fits-all approach in crop and pest management strategies. It also depletes soil and encourages the presence of pests, necessitating the use of overpowered synthetic agents.

As with organic fertilizers and Integrated Pest Management, we see that crop rotation is not as convenient or immediately profitable as monoculture, but in the long run, it is more sustainable and contributes to the biodiversity that is needed for life on our planet. This is a recurring theme in the precepts and methodologies of organic farming. There is a choice that must be made between doing what is easiest and doing what is most worthwhile. This applies not only to matters concerning the individual’s bodily health, but also to matters concerning the wellbeing of our precious Earth. Reducing the use of poisonous chemical agents and creating conditions in which nature may heal itself is a benefit to us today, to our children, and to our children’s children.

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