15 Crop Rotation Advantages and Disadvantages Explained

Crop rotation advantages and disadvantages are; erosion control, nutrient replenishment, productivity, pest and disease control, improved soil structure, diversification, water and soil conservation (advantages); instability, environmental dependence, knowledge requirement, low economic output (disadvantages).

This article discusses the crop rotation advantages and disadvantages, according to the following outline;


-Advantages of Crop Rotation

-Disadvantages of Crop Rotation







-Advantages of Crop Rotation

1). Crop Rotation Mitigates Erosion

Crop rotation reduces the risk of soil erosion, because it ensures that the soil is covered at all times, and it improves the physicochemical characteristics of the soil.

One of the criteria for selecting and cultivating plant species in crop rotation, is the possession of a good root structure. This, among other characteristics make the soil less susceptible to erosion by improving its ability to absorb and retain moisture.

Also, many crop rotation schemes include cover crops [3], whose main role is to protect the top soil from wind, water and high temperature.

Another natural hazard that is mitigated by crop rotation is landslides [12]. Because landslides occur by a similar mechanism as erosion, a consistent soil cover will invariably reduce the risk of occurrence. Crop roots may also serve as a means of binding the soil particles, to improve resilience and bearing capacity.

crop rotation , cover crops , reduce erosion
Crop Rotation Mitigates Erosion through Consistent Soil Cover (Credit: USDA NRCS South Dakota 2013 .CC BY-SA 2.0.)

2). Soil Nutrients are Replenished

Crop rotation replenishes nutrients in the soil, and increases soil fertility.

The main reason for this is the fact that crop rotation reduces the nutritional stress placed on the soil, by successively changing the species of crops being cultivated.

Since individual crop species have specific nutritional needs, an unchanging pattern of cultivation is likely to have depleting effects on certain minerals in the soil [6]. Ultimately, this causes an imbalance in soil nutrient composition, and makes the soil infertile.

Through crop rotation, deficiency of specific minerals can be avoided, as the rotation of crops leads to a more balanced pattern of nutrient consumption.

Some crops involved in a rotation, also have nutrient-replenishing qualities. An example of this is legumes, which facilitate nitrogen fixation in soil [9].

Because the soil is being consistently covered by crops, the rate of natural nutrient replenishment through microbial processes such as biodegradation, increases.

Crop conservation makes the soil ecosystem more conducive for organisms, by optimizing pH, temperature and structure of the soil. In turn, these organisms improve soil fertility through their activities.

Lastly, many crop rotation plans include a period for land to lie fallow, during which no high-demanding crops are cultivated. Crops like grasses and cereals, may be cultivated within this period, while biomass-derived organic fertilizer may be applied, allowing the soil nutrients to be replenished.


3). Crop Rotation leads to High Yield and Productivity

Crop rotation is one of the sustainable agricultural techniques for addressing food insecurity and world hunger [7].

This is simply because crop rotation leads to improved soil quality and fertility, which have positive effects on the growth of crops. By achieving soil conservation, the practice of crop rotation ensures that the nutrients in soil are both replenished and maintained. As a result, when crops are cultivated, they are likely to have high yield compared to the outcome of other agricultural practices.

On the other hand, monoculture (cultivation of a single crop specie) is associated with declining yields over time [1], because of the continuous demand placed on specific nutrients by crops. When this method is replaced with crop rotation, a significant increase in productivity is likely to be achieved.

crop rotation , high yield
Crop Rotation leads to High Productivity (Credit: USDA NRCS South Dakota 2016 .CC BY-SA 2.0.)


4). Pest and Disease Control

Many pests and diseases are crop-specific [2].

As a result, the continuous and successive cultivation of a single crop specie (or group of species) encourages infestation by the pests and diseases.

Crop rotation controls pest and disease outbreaks in agricultural farms, by creating a continuous variation of biological conditions, which makes it unstable and non-conducive for pests and diseases to thrive.

It is also possible to deliberately limit the spread of pests and diseases in crop rotation, by ensuring that specific host (crop) species are not cultivated under the seasonal, biochemical or climatic conditions that support the survival of the pests and pathogens that affect them.

crop rotation . pests and diseases
Crop Rotation Controls Pests and Diseases (Credit: arian.suresh 2015 .CC BY 2.0.)


5). Crop Rotation Mitigates Soil Degradation

In some circumstances, crop rotation can be viewed as a form of environmental remediation [14].

This is because of the positive effects of the technique on soil health.

Unlike many other methods of agriculture, crop rotation does not rely heavily on synthetic fertilizer. Rather, it improves soil fertility mostly through natural processes like nitrogen fixation and biodegradation.

Considering that synthetic fertilizer is a notable cause of pollution [10], the reduced dependence on these chemicals caused by crop rotation, is of benefit to the soil, and can be said to mitigate degradation.

Crop rotation can be combined with phytoremediation, whereby plants are used to remove contaminants from the soil.


6). Crop Rotation Improves Soil Structure

Among other benefits. crop rotation improves the structure of soil while reducing its bulk density [8].

There are different reasons for this. One of these is the fact that crop rotation tends to increase microbial activity in the soil [13]. This causes continuous soil aggregation and structural modification.

The texture and structure of soil are also improved by crop rotation because of the diversity of root types which occurs as different crop species are alternated. This diversity enables the soil structure to develop elaborately, to suit the varying needs of different crops.

Lastly, crop rotation optimizes soil structure by protecting the soil from erosion. This enables the soil to maintain and modify its physicochemical characteristics without much external disruption.


7). Weed Control

Crop rotation controls weed in a similar manner as it controls pests and diseases.

On a long-term basis, the diversity of species in crop rotation, makes it difficult for weeds to adapt and thrive [15]. This is because like other plants, weeds require a degree of physicochemical and biological stability to thrive.

Studies suggest that the density of weed reproduction is altered and generally reduced by crop rotation [4].

Many crop rotation schemes include highly-competitive species that can prevent the survival and continuity of weeds. In most cases, these competitive crops are alternated with less competitive ones, to achieve a degree of equilibrium in growth pattern and nutrient demand.

Lastly, when herbicides are used within the context of crop rotation, their effectiveness in controlling weeds is likely to increase compared to other farming methods.


8). Crop Rotation encourages Agricultural Diversification

The diversity of plant species in crop rotation, is known to improve soil conditions and overall agricultural efficiency [11].

There are other reasons why diversified crop rotation (DCR) is beneficial.

The agricultural sector and the economy both benefit from diversified crop rotation. This is because the risk of overall food shortage is reduced when a rotational scheme of farming is implemented.

Economically, crop rotation tends to make agriculture more profitable. One way by which this occurs, is through the production of a diversified output from the agricultural sector, which makes it more viable and resilient both locally and externally.

Crop rotation also encourages careful planning that can reduce the overall cost of farming, by implementing rotation schemes that allow for conservative use of labor and energy.

diversified crop rotation
Crop Rotation encourages Diversity (Credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT) 2015 .CC BY-SA 2.0.)


9). Conservative Water Consumption and Land Use

Crop rotation is a conservative practice whose ultimate goal is to achieve sustainability.

As a result, crop rotation projects tend to conserve natural resources like land (soil) and water.

An example of land conservation in crop rotation is the reduction of the risk of soil erosion [5].

Water is also conserved because crop rotation protects soil from leaching and rapid evaporation, increasing the moisture retention capacity of the soil. This reduces the need for continuous irrigation and moisture replenishment.

Lastly, some of the types of soil conservation such as three-field rotation system, conserve land by making it possible to effectively cultivate multiple crop species on a single land at once.


10). Crop Rotation reduces the need for Synthetic Chemicals

By controlling pests, diseases and weeds, crop rotation reduces the dependence of agriculture on chemicals like pesticides and herbicides.

While these chemicals may still be needed, the level of dependence and therefore the need to apply excessive amounts is less in crop rotation. Less application of synthetic chemicals prevents the accumulation of toxic elements in the soil.


-Disadvantages of Crop Rotation

1). Can Discourage Specialization

While diversification has several advantages, it prevents specialization in any particular crop to be achieved.

Specialization is useful when a given crop is in high demand, and it facilitates large scale production of such crops, as well as the accumulation of useful knowledge that can help optimize production.

Diversification may reduce the output potential for individual crop species, and may require more effort, as there is need to acquire knowledge and equipment for each of the various crops involved.


2). Crop Rotation Causes Instability of Farming Conditions

The inconsistency of crop types which are cultivated in crop rotation systems, may pose some risk to the practice of this technique.

One of these risks is related to investment. Crop rotation requires a diversified investment approach, to address all aspects of the rotation scheme including the different crops and their nutritional needs.

Such an approach is associated with the risk of losses provided any aspect of the crop rotation scheme is unsuccessful.

Also, crop rotation may lead to loss of sensitive crop species, especially when these are alternated or cultivated simultaneously on the same agricultural land with highly-contrasting species. The variation in growth requirements may negatively impact such sensitive species.


3). Feasibility and Effectiveness Depend on Environmental Factors

Environmental factors like climate, topography, and soil characteristics, affect crop rotation.

Because of the inclusion and alternation of various species, crop rotation schemed are susceptible to disruption as a result of sudden environmental changes. This can lead to losses and may affect the overall effectiveness and profitability of the practice.


4). Requires Knowledge and Experience

Unlike several other agricultural methods, crop rotation requires knowledge and expertise to be successful.

The knowledge required is often case-specific, because different crop species and environmental conditions require different methods of approach.

These requirements increase the complexity of crop rotation and create a barrier to widespread and convenient implementation. The need for experience also means that crop rotation involves numerous errors that can have economic consequences.


5). Crop Rotation may have low Economic Output

A significant amount of initial investment is often required in crop rotation.

This is due to the need for various equipment to meet the needs of the different crop species. The economic demand at this initial stage is a disadvantage as it limits the practice of crop rotation.



Advantages of crop rotation are;

  1. Mitigates Erosion
  2. Nutrient Replenishment
  3. High Yield and Productivity
  4. Pest and Disease Control
  5. Mitigates Soil Degradation
  6. Improves Soil Structure
  7. Weed Control
  8. Agricultural Diversification
  9. Conservative Water and Land Use
  10. Less need for Synthetic Chemicals


Disadvantages of crop rotation are;

  1. Can Discourage Specialization
  2. Instability of Farming Conditions
  3. Depends on Environmental Factors
  4. Requires Knowledge and Experience
  5. May have low Economic Output



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