- Editor's Note -

Rotation Benefits Keep Corn
In The Crop Mix

By Carroll Smith

The agricultural landscape across the South changed dramatically as farmers took advantage of high grain prices. Although an oddity as first, seeing many more fields of corn and soybeans interspersed with cotton is now a common sight.

Today, corn prices have dropped from the crazy highs that we once saw. But, in spite of this turn of events, there is another reason for including corn in the crop mix: the benefits of rotation.

According to Mississippi State University (MSU), “Reports consistently indicate 10-25 percent yield advantages for cotton or soybeans grown in rotation with corn on Mississippi farms. Crop rotations normally improve yields because many weed, insect, nematode and disease problems build up when using the same management program every year in continuous cropping. Crop rotation systems effectively disrupt many of these cumulative effects, preventing problems and reducing input costs.

“Crop rotation allows the producer to attack the predominant weed problems by altering tillage systems, changing herbicide chemistry and disrupting weed life cycles. Corn rotations can also improve soil physical structure by recycling more organic matter and changing from a tap-rooted crop to a fibrous root system.”

MSU also notes, “Numerous other beneficial effects of rotation have been reported, including improvements in soil fertility, soil moisture, soil microbes and phytotoxic compounds and/or growth promoting substances originating from crop residues.”

In the Southeast, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service draws many of the same conclusions. “Crop rotation aids in the management of nematodes and diseases. Additionally, it can be a significant component of a weed management program...By rotating cotton with other crops and selecting a herbicide program for the rotational crop that effectively controls the weeds that are difficult to control in cotton, one can reduce or prevent the buildup of problem weeds and help keep the overall weed population at lower levels. Crop rotation and properly planned herbicide rotation are also critical components of a herbicide resistance management strategy.”

Although it’s true that high prices first brought corn into the spotlight across the South, it now appears that the benefits of rotation will probably keep it there.

If you have comments, send them to Corn South, 1010 June Road, Suite 102, Memphis, Tenn., 38119. You may also call (800) 888-9784 or contact Lia Guthrie at lguthrie@onegrower.com or Carroll Smith at csmith@onegrower.com.