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Rotation Benefits: Yea Or Nay?

Crop rotation is not a new concept as you can tell by many of the comments that we received from readers who participated in the August Web Poll.

However, as profit margins tighten, grain prices rise, technology allows farmers to learn more about the characteristics of individual fields and research continues, more attention is focused today on what actual benefits farmers can realize from crop rotation on their individual operations.

And, based on the results of the August Web Poll, the majority of respondents have gained from it. When asked if the cotton/grain acreage shifts have helped them learn more about the benefits of crop rotation, 66 percent say, “Yes,” compared to 34 percent who say, “No.”

So what are some of the benefits of crop rotation from a production standpoint? One example from a corn/cotton rotation is that some weeds that are controlled with certain herbicides approved for use in corn have never been exposed to these herbicides in a continuous cotton system. Tennessee weed scientist Larry Steckel notes that this is a good way to break up herbicide resistance that may be building in a field.

In another rotation scenario, consider wheat and double-cropped soybeans followed by cotton the next year. Alabama cotton specialist Charlie Burmester notes that producers can gain the advantage of moisture conservation from the wheat straw and soybean residue, plus a small amount of nitrogen from the soybeans. He adds that this is a great rotation for cotton as long as reniform nematodes are not a problem.

In addition to what the experts have to say, following is a sampling of some of the comments – pro and con – that we received from our readers. We always appreciate the feedback and encourage everyone who votes to also share their thoughts.

• “We have rotated crops for many years. Corn seems to be the best rotation with cotton and peanuts here in the Southeast. But, if I don’t make a bumper crop this year, we will probably rotate some land into a subdivision in 2009!!”

• “I continue to rotate with the same ratio of cotton to grain.”

• “We have been rotating some of our cotton acres with corn since the early ’90s. The benefits are real, and we plan to take advantage of higher grain prices and increase our rotated acres.”

• “Of course we always learn [about the benefits of crop rotation], but the big effect of these [cotton/grain acreage shifts] is that much of the cotton infrastructure is being lost. The effect of rotation on soil productivity is a given now, but the final result may be negative for the South.”

• “I already knew the benefits [of crop rotation], but the economics were not there to make the switch to grains.”

• “It seems as if we may have rotated our way out of growing cotton!”

• “I have always been very aggressive when it comes to crop rotation. In fact, it’s absolutely a vital component to my operation’s success.”

• “It [crop rotation] has got to be a good idea. We did it back when I was a kid, and that was in the ’50s’ era.”

In this month’s Web Poll, we are addressing a topic that has had a big impact on U.S. farming operations – the high cost of fuel and the effect that new legislation may or may not have on it.

Cast your vote and post your thoughts in the Web Poll comments section. To participate, go online at www.cottonfarming.com. October results and respondents’ comments will be reported in the December issue of Cotton Farming.

Web Poll Results

In August, we asked: Have the cotton/grain acreage shifts helped you learn more about the benefits of crop rotation on your farm? Please explain your answer in the comments section.

• Yes – 66 %

• No – 34 %

October Web Poll Question

Do you believe Congressional measures to ease the offshore drilling ban will help lower prices for fuel needed to run your farming operation? Why or why not?

(1) Yes
(2) No

Register your vote at www.cottonfarming.com

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