Organic Crop Rotations: Conservation Benefits

The USDA Organic Rules require a soil-building crop rotation that controls erosion, maintains or improves soil organic matter content, manages deficient or excess plant nutrients, and provides for crop pest management. Sod, cover crops, green manure crops, catch crops, and various mulches are included in the rotation to perform these functions, which correspond to the purposes for NRCS Conservation Practices such as Conservation Crop Rotation, Cover Crop, Strip Cropping, and Nutrient Management.

Because organic producers do not use synthetic fertilizers and can use only a very limited list of pesticides or fungicides, they depend to a greater degree on crop rotation with its diverse soil biology to manage nutrients, pests, and diseases. On the other hand, exclusion of herbicides (no carry over from year to year) maximizes flexibility in designing crop rotations that enhance biodiversity, improve soil, and perform nutrient and pest-management functions, while also meeting the farmer’s particular market needs.

This webinar discusses crop rotation strategies that many types and scales of organic farms can use to meet conservation objectives, market needs, and USDA Organic requirements. Specific strategies used by organic farms in different parts of the United States are given.