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Classification of crop rotations

Classification of crop rotations is a systematic representation of the diversity of crop rotations, based on the differences of production purpose and structure of cultivated areas.

The main provisions of the classification

The classification of crop rotations is based on two main features:

production purpose – the main type of agricultural products, such as grain, fodder, technical raw materials, vegetables, etc. Three types are distinguished – field, forage and specialized;
structure of sown areas, or the proportion of the main groups of crops, which differ in biological properties and technology of cultivation, the impact on fertility. According to this feature, there are more than 10 species belonging to different types. For example, cereals, flax, potatoes, etc.

In addition to the above-mentioned features, crop rotations are subdivided depending on the number of fields into three-, four-, five-, and six-field ones, etc. The number of fields is determined by a number of factors. For example, in the steppe regions of Siberia and Trans-Ural, where a small number of crops are cultivated, crop rotations with a small number of fields prevail – four-, five- and six-field. In the south of Russia, where many crops are grown, multi-field crop rotations including up to 12 fields are common.

On large farms, several crop rotations may be introduced with different purposes, which allows to optimize organizational and production processes and to increase the efficiency of the arable land use. For example, crop rotations with different structures of areas and different directions can be introduced: beet and corn crop rotations.

In some cases, a withdrawal field is introduced, which is temporarily excluded from the general alternation of crops.

Depending on soil and climatic conditions in different regions of the country, different species may prevail. For example, flax and flax-potato rotations are more often used in the Non-Black Soil Zone, and beet and winter wheat rotations in the south of the country.

Types/subtypes and species of crop rotations:

  1. Field:
    • universal: cereal-fallow, cereal-fallow-row, cereal-row, cereal-fallow-grass, cereal-grass, cereal-grass-fallow-row, cereal-grass-row (fruit-changing), grass-row, row, fallow-row, sideral;
    • specialized (grain, flax, beet, potato): cereal-fallow, cereal-fallow-row, cereal-grass, cereal-grass-row (fruit-changing), grass-row, row, etc.
  2. Forage:
    • on-farm: cereal-grass-row (fruit-changing), grass-row, row, cereal-grass;
    • hay-and-pasture: grass fields (many grass fields), cereal-grass, grass-row.
  3. Specials:
    • vegetable, vegetable-feed, vegetable-gourd, and gourds: row, grass-row, fallow-row, cereal-fallow-row;
    • rice crops: cereal-grass, cereal-row;
    • hemp: row, cereal-grass-row (fruit-changing), cereal-fallow-row;
    • tobacco crops: row, cereal-grass-row (fruit-changing), grass-row;
    • strawberry and fruit nursery: grass-row, fallow-row, sideral;
    • medicinal and essential-oil crops: cereal-fallow-row, cereal-grass-row (fruit-changing), fallow-row;
    • soil-protective: grass fields, cereal-grass.

Types of crop rotations

Field crop rotations

Main article: Farming: Field crop rotations

Field crop rotation is a crop rotation designed for the production of grain, industrial or forage crops. They are subdivided into universal and specialized subtypes.

Universal field crop rotation – crop rotation, in which most of the arable land accounted for cereals, the rest – for technical and forage crops, in arid areas – also in bare fallow.

Specialized field crop rotation is a crop rotation with a maximum saturation of fields with one crop and crops of one group. For example, in many regions of Russia specialized grain crop rotations with a share of grain and leguminous crops up to 75-85% are widespread. The share of sugar beet in specialized beet crop rotations is up to 30%, and in irrigated conditions – up to 40% of arable land.

In specialized potato crop rotations, under high fertility conditions, potatoes may account for up to 40% of the arable area.

Forage crop rotations

Main article: Farming: Forage crop rotations

Fodder crop rotation is a crop rotation designed mainly for the production of coarse, succulent and green fodder. Most of the arable land is occupied by different types of fodder crops. They are subdivided into on-farm and hay-and-pasture fodder crop rotations.

On-farm fodder crop rotation is a crop rotation whose main purpose is the production of succulent and green fodder, and is located near livestock farms. They are also called root crops and silage in the case of specialization of production of succulent root crops and silage mass. Location near farms reduces the cost of transporting the mass of forage.

Hay-and-pasture fodder crop rotations are crop rotations designed to produce hay, haylage, and livestock grazing. They are dominated by perennial and annual grasses. It is often used in the cultivation of natural forage lands, introducing multifield alternation of meadows and pastures.

Field, forage, and sometimes special crop rotations can be used for the production of feed grain.

Special crop rotations

Main article: Farming: Special crop rotations

Special crop rotation is a crop rotation designed for cultivation of crops requiring special agrotechnics and special conditions. Special crops include vegetables, cucurbits, medicinal plants, essential oil crops, hemp, tobacco, rice, etc. Requirements for special conditions are associated with biological features of their cultivation, such as placement in areas of high soil fertility, availability of irrigation systems, the introduction of high doses of organic and mineral fertilizers, and peculiarities of care and protection of plants. They are divided into eight subtypes.

All types of crop rotations can be referred to as specialized if the share of the main crop or biologically related group of crops in the structure of the sown area is allocated to the maximum allowable share.

A separate place in specialized crop rotations is given to soil-protecting sub-type.

Soil-protective crop rotation is crop rotation, the main purpose of which is to protect soil from wind and water erosion with simultaneous production of agricultural products.

For example, on sloping lands with a steepness of 5-7°, soil-protecting crop rotations with cultivation of perennial and annual grasses (grass-field species) or with partial introduction of winter cereals (grass-grain species) are introduced to protect the soil from water erosion. Due to soil covering by perennial grasses during the year and a powerful root system, they protect the soil from water and wind erosion. In the steppe zone in soil-protecting crop rotations, a strip arrangement of perennial grasses, crops and fallow is used across the direction of the prevailing winds.

Species of crop rotations

Types and subtypes of crop rotations can refer to different species. The following species are used in Russia:

  • cereal-fallow;
  • cereal-fallow-grass;
  • cereal-fallow-row;
  • cereal-grass;
  • cereal-row;
  • cereal-grass-fallow-row;
  • cereal-grass-row; (fruit-changing);
  • grass-row;
  • row crop;
  • grass fields;
  • sideral;
  • grass-cereal;
  • fallow-row.

Cereal-fallow

Cereal-fallow crop rotation – crop rotation, in which the predominance of cereals of solid crops and bare fallow fields are used.

For example: 1 – bare fallow, 2-3 – spring wheat, 4 – barley or oats.

Cereal-fallow crop rotations have been used in Russia since the XIV-XV centuries. They were the basis of the three-field system of farming: 1 – fallow field, 2 – winter cereals, 3 – spring cereals.

In modern agriculture, cereal-fallow crop rotation is the basis of soil-protection systems in the arid steppes of the Southern Urals, Altai, Western Siberia and other steppe regions of eastern Russia. In a harsh continental climate with a short dry summer period in the absence of legumes and row crops, bare fallow is the only good precursor for sowing spring wheat. They allow for sustainable yields of this crop due to the accumulation of soil water and effective weed control.

Under these conditions short three-, four- and five-field grain fallow crop rotations of spring wheat with repeated sowing, interrupted by oats or barley in a five-field fallow: 1 – bare fallow, 2-3 – spring wheat, 4 – barley, 5 – spring wheat are common.

Cereal-fallow-row

Cereal-fallow-row crop rotation – crop rotation with the predominance of cereals of continuous sowing, alternating with bare fallow and row crops. Cereals may account for up to 70% of the arable area, and with corn planted to grain and more.

Cereal-fallow-row crops emerged on the basis of cereal-fallow crops and are improved cereal multifield crop rotations, numbering up to 10-12 fields. They are widespread in semi-arid steppe and forest-steppe regions of European Russia: in the Volga region, the North Caucasus and South-East, in the southern part of the Central Black Earth zone.

A typical example is a ten-row rotation of one of the enterprises in Volgograd region: 1 – bare fallow, 2 – winter wheat, 3 – corn for grain, 4 – spring wheat, 5 – barley, 6 – peas, 7 – winter rye, 8 – spring wheat, 9 – millet, 10 – sunflower.

An example of a cereal-fallow-row crop rotation used in the unstable moisture zone of the Stavropol Territory: 1 – bare fallow, 2 – winter wheat, 3 – winter wheat, 4 – corn for grain, 5 – sunflower, 6 – pea-oat mixture for green fodder, 7 – winter wheat, 8 – winter wheat, 9 – corn for grain, 10 – barley.

In the semiarid steppe regions of the Southern Urals and North Caucasus, and in the Middle and Lower Volga region a simplified cereal-fallow-row crop rotation with a shorter rotation is used: 1 – bare fallow, 2-3 – cereals, 4 – row crops, 5-6 – cereals.

The disadvantage of this species with a high proportion of bare fallow and row crops is poor soil protection from erosion. Therefore, when it is used, special measures aimed at protection in steppe areas – from wind erosion; on slopes with an angle of more than 1.5-2° – from water erosion.

Cereal-row

Cereal-row crop rotation is a crop rotation in which cereals are dominated by row crops, replaced by row crops. They are common in areas of sufficient moisture with grain production, where there is no need for bare fallow, for example, in the Central Black Earth zone (with sufficient moisture), the North Caucasus, the Non-Black Earth zone and the Far East.

In them, row crops are replaced by cereals, groats or legumes going one or two years in a row. For example, for potato crop rotations on light soils of the Non-Chernozem zone the following alternations are used:

1 – early potatoes, 2 – winter rye, 3 – lupine for grain, 4 – potatoes, 5 – oats;
1 – leguminous crops, 2-3 – winter wheat, 4 – corn, 5-6 – winter wheat, 7 – sugar beet, 8 – barley, 9 – corn, 10 – winter wheat;
Far Eastern soybean crop rotation: 1 – soybean, 2-3 – wheat, 4 – soybean, 5 – barley.

Also, as in the case of the cereal-fallow-row, cereal-row crop rotation requires special measures to protect the soil from erosion.

Cereal-fallow-grass

Cereal-fallow-grass crop rotation – crop rotation with the predominance of cereal crops, alternating with bare fallow and perennial grasses. They may include fields of technical non-row crops, for example, fiber flax.

Cereal-fallow-grass crop rotation – crop rotation with the predominance of cereal crops, alternating with bare fallow and perennial grasses. They may include fields of technical non-row crops, for example, fiber flax.

An example is the Volokolamsk eight-field: 1 – bare fallow, 2 – winter cereals with undersowing of clover, 3-4 – clover, 5 – fiber flax or spring cereals, 6 – bare fallow, 7 – winter cereals, 8 – spring cereals.

Cereal-fallow-grass crop rotation are improved cereal crop rotations used in the northern regions of the European part of Russia.

In the north-eastern part of the Nonchernozem zone eight-field alternation is used: 1 – bare fallow, 2 – winter rye, 3 – barley with undersowing of perennial grasses, 4-5 – perennial grasses, 6 – winter rye, 7 – oats, 8 – barley.

Cereal-grass

Cereal-grass crop rotation – crop rotation with the predominance of cereals of continuous sowing, the rest of the arable area which is occupied by perennial and annual grasses.

They are also a type of improved cereal crop rotations. An example of the transition from a three-field system to a more perfect farming system is the same Volokolamsk eight-field, in which two fields are allocated for perennial grasses, the other two – under bare fallow.

In the future, bare fallows were replaced by seeded fallows, with an increasing proportion of perennial grasses.

In modern agriculture, cereal-grass crop rotations are used in the Non-Chernozem zone, in farms with a small share of row crops or developed separate on-farm crop rotations. For example, 7-field crop rotations: 1 – seeded fallow, 2 – winter cereals, 3 – spring cereals with undersowing of perennial grasses, 4-5 – perennial grasses, 6 – winter cereals, 7 – spring cereals.

In the 8-field a field of fiber flax is added between perennial grasses and winter cereals: 1 – seeded fallow, 2 – winter cereals with undersowing of perennial grasses, 3-4 – perennial grasses of the 1-2nd year of use, 5 – fiber flax, 6 – winter cereals, 7 – spring cereals.

In the case of replacing the seeded fallow to bare fallow, which in recent years has become more practiced, seven-field crop rotation turns into a cereal-fallow-grass crop rotation.

Due to the fact that perennial grasses and winter cereals with good soil-protecting properties are used in cereal-grass rotation, and they account for most of the arable land, they can be successfully used on sloping lands with steepness up to 5-7° in order to protect against erosion.

Cereal-fallow-grass-row

Cereal-grass-fallow-row crop rotation is a crop rotation in which cereals alternate with bare fallow, perennial grasses and row crops. Their structure of cultivated areas is close to the cereal-grass-row crop rotation, but there is a field of bare fallow: 1 – bare fallow, 2 – winter wheat, 3 – potatoes, 4 – barley with undersowing of perennial grasses, 5-6 – perennial grasses, 7 – winter wheat, 8 – oats.

Cereal-grass-fallow-row crop rotation is the result of further improvement of cereal-fallow three-field crop rotation. Replacement of bare fallow to seeded fallow and the introduction of another field of row crops turns it into a classic scheme of cereal-grass-row (fruit-changing) crop rotation.

Cereal-grass-row (fruit-changing) crop rotation

Cereal-grass-row (fruit-changing) crop rotation is a crop rotation in which cereals account for up to half of the arable area, alternating with row crops and legumes.

For the first time it was used in England in the county of Norfolk with the following scheme of rotation: 1 – row crops, 2 – spring cereals with undersowing of clover, 3 – clover, 4 – winter cereals.Grain crops occupy 50%, legumes and row crops – 25% each, which allows optimal maintenance of the principle of crop rotation, i.e. such an order of alternation in which the fields of crops that differ sharply in biology and cultivation technology, constantly replace one another.

In the cereal-grass-row rotation the cultivation of cereals is interrupted by row crops from another family and with a different technology of cultivation, and then by legumes, which are the best predecessors of cereals.

The Norkfolk crop rotation is a combination of two-field links in which one field is devoted to cereals and the other to row crops or legumes. The transition to the Norkfolk crop rotation from a cereal fallow three-field rotation was associated with the replacement of bare fallow with a legume crop (clover) and the inclusion of a row crop (turnip) between the re-cultivation of two cereal crops.

This change of cereal-fallow three-field to cereal-fallow-row four-field crop rotation was a big step towards the intensification of farming, which was a new stage in the development of farming.

In modern farming systems, the classical scheme of cereal-fallow-row was expanded with a set of tilled and leguminous crops and rotation was increased. Legumes are often represented by perennial grasses in mixtures with biennial cereals or several fields of legumes. The crop rotation may include 2-3 fields of row crops – corn, potatoes, sugar beets, etc. The duration of rotation of modern variants can reach 8-12 years.

Cereal-fallow-row crop rotations are used in some areas of the Central Black Earth and Non-Black Earth zones, in the irrigated lands of southern Russia, where the agronomic effect of 2-3 years of alfalfa use is well manifested.

An example is the eight-field field, common in the Nonchernozem zone: 1-2 – perennial grasses, 3 – winter cereals, 4 – potatoes, 5 – spring cereals or leguminous plants, 6 – winter cereals, 7 – corn for silage, 8 – spring cereals with undersowing of perennial grasses.

In the forest-steppe zone of the European part of Russia and in the Kuban areas with sufficient moisture a typical example is: 1 – seeded fallow, 2 – winter wheat, 3 – sugar beet, 4 – spring cereals with undersowing of perennial grasses, 5 – perennial grasses, 6 – winter wheat, 7 – corn for grain and silage, 8 – peas, 9 – winter wheat, 10 – corn for grain, 11 – sunflower, millet.

Cereal-fallow-row crop rotations, including 2-3 fields of row crops, have low soil-protective function, so on slopes steeper than 2° it is necessary to apply a system of special soil-protective measures.

Grass fields

Grass-field crop rotation is a crop rotation in which most of the arable land is occupied by perennial grasses. The remaining part is occupied by annual grasses, sometimes – grain forage crops.

Grass-field crop rotation is a crop rotation in which most of the arable land is occupied by perennial grasses. The remaining part is occupied by annual grasses, sometimes – grain forage crops.

This type is used in forage crop rotations and forms the basis of an intensive meadow-pasture farming with the following scheme of rotation: 1-5 – perennial grasses, 6 – annual grasses with undersowing of perennial grasses.

If production of green and roughage is combined with production of forage or with cultivation of non-row technical crops, the following scheme of rotation is possible: 1-4 – perennial grasses, 5 – cereals or fiber flax, 6 – annual grasses, 7 – spring cereals with undersowing of perennial grasses. This type is close to grass-cereal.

Grass-field crop rotations have excellent soil-protective properties, so they are used in areas with wind and water erosion.

In them perennial grasses in the first and second years of use are intended for hay, in subsequent years – for cattle grazing.

Grass-cereal

Grass-cereal crop rotation is a rotation in which half or most of the arable land is allocated to perennial and annual grasses, and the rest to cereal crops.

For the Nonchernozem zone we use the following crop rotation: 1-4 – perennial grasses, 5 – winter wheat, 6 – oats, 7 – barley, 8 – annual grasses with undersowing of perennial grasses. The rotations are aimed at production of coarse fodder and grain forage and are complementary to on-farm and hay-and-pasture forage crop rotations.

Crop rotations with perennial grasses are widespread in the Non-Chernozem zone in areas with sufficient moisture. With a low level of intensification, they have very good soil-protecting properties.

Grass-row

Grass-row crop rotation is a crop rotation that alternates row crops and perennial grasses. As a rule, perennial grasses occupy 2-3 or more fields.

They are used as field crop rotations under irrigated conditions in the southern regions of Russia for the production of grain, technical or forage crops: 1-2 – alfalfa, 3 – sugar beet, 4 – corn for grain, 5 – leguminous plants, 6 – sugar beet, 7 – barley with alfalfa underplanting.

In the south-western part of the Non-Black Soil Zone on peat-bog soils the following alternation schemes are used:

  • 1-3 – perennial grasses, 4 – winter cereals, 5 – sugar beets, 6 – potatoes, 7 – corn, 8 – corn and leguminous plants, 9 – annual grasses with underplanting of perennial grasses;
  • 1-2 – perennial grasses of the 1-2nd year of use; 3 – corn; 4 – potatoes; 5 – root crops; 6 – silage crops; 7 – annual grasses with replanting of perennial grasses.

Vegetable-forage

Vegetable-forage crop rotations – special crop rotations used in vegetable production, including vegetable crops and perennial grasses.

For example: 1-2 – perennial grasses, 3 – cabbage, 4 – tomato, 5 – cucumber, 6 – onion, 7 – table root crops, 8 – annual grasses with undersowing of perennial grasses.

Row crop rotation

Row crop rotation is a crop rotation in which a large proportion of the cultivated area is occupied by row crops. It is the most intensive type of crop rotations, with a high degree of saturation with row crops, they continuously replace each other for several years. Thanks to the species difference of row crops, it is possible to avoid the negative phenomena arising from repeated and permanent sowing of the same type of plants.

Row crop rotations first appeared in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in some farms of Russia specializing in the production of factory sugar beet, vegetables, and factory potatoes. In Central Asia, they were the basis of cotton growing.

At present, they are used in areas with sufficient moisture and on irrigated land. For example, in the Central region of Krasnodar Krai the following scheme of alternation is used:

  • 1 – corn for grain, 2 – sunflower, 3 – leguminous crops, 4 – winter wheat, 5 – sugar beet, 6 – corn for grain, 7 – corn for silage, 8 – winter wheat, 9 – sugar beet, 10 – winter barley with stubble corn;
  • 1 – corn for silage, 2 – winter wheat, 3 – sugar beet, 4 – corn for grain, 5 – winter wheat, 6 – sunflower, 7 – winter wheat, 8 – sugar beet, 9 – corn for grain, 10 – barley.

Under the irrigated conditions of the South-East, North Caucasus and other southern regions of Russia the majority of vegetable crop rotations are row crop rotations. In the Nonchernozem zone, in areas with sufficient moisture in the forest-steppe zone, on-farm forage crop rotations have a short rotation with a predominance of row crops: 1 – annual grasses, 2 – forage root crops and potatoes, 3 – corn for silage, 4 – sunflower for silage.

The big disadvantage of row crop rotations is very poor soil-protecting functions, for this reason they should be placed on flat lands or with a weak slope, provided soil-protecting measures are used.

Sideral crop rotation

The sideral crop rotation is a crop rotation in which one or more fields are allocated for sideral crops. They are used in poor sandy and sandy loam soils, the share of which, for example, in the Non-Chernozem zone can be about 30% of the arable area.

An example of a sideral crop rotation: 1 – lupine for green fertilizer (siderat), 2 – winter rye, 3 – potatoes, 4 – oats.

In the southern areas of the Non-Black Soil Zone sideral crop effect can be enhanced by additional crop sideration (introduction of intermediate sideral crops) in combination with the use of straw as an organic fertilizer:

  • 1 – annual lupine for green fertilizer, 2 – winter rye, 3 – potatoes, 4 – annual grasses for feed, 5 – winter rye + crop siderat (rape, mustard white, etc.) with straw fertilizer, 6 – corn for silage, 7 – oats;
  • 1 – lupine, 2 – winter rye, 3 – spring wheat, 4 – seradella, 5 – winter wheat, 6 – potatoes, 7 – oats or barley.

Annual and perennial lupine, seradella, clover, cloverleaf, white mustard, oil radish, rape and other legumes can be used as green crops.

Sources

Farming. Textbook for universities / G.I. Bazdyrev, V.G. Loshakov, A.I. Puponin et al. – Moscow: Publishing House “Kolos”, 2000. – 551 с.

Fundamentals of agricultural production technology. Farming and crop production. Edited by V.S. Niklyaev. – Moscow: Bylina, 2000. – 555 с.

Fundamentals of Agronomy: Tutorial/Y.V. Evtefeev, G.M. Kazantsev. – M.: FORUM, 2013. – 368 p.: ill.