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COG Organic Field Crop Handbook

2.1 Sample Crop Rotations


Crop rotation for a dairy and cash crop farm.

Year 1: Winter wheat or spelt, oil radish cover crop

Year 2: Oats underseeded with red clover

Year 3: Barley; winter rye

Year 4: Rye; oil radish catch crop

Year 5: Barley underseeded with alfalfa, timothy & brome

year 6. Forage

Year 7. Forage

Year 8. Forage

Year 9 Forage plowed, Winter wheat

Location: Jervic Farms, Chepstow, Ontario. Clay loam soil. 2600 CHU

Acreage: 250 acres workable; 190 acres to feed the herd and 60 acres in cash crop cereals.

Livestock: 30 milking holsteins, plus heifers and calves


Features of this rotation:

1. Reduced use of row crops and increased reliance on high quality forages and winter cereals.

2. Typically an alfalfa-timothy-bromegrass hay mixture is undersown into spring barley and kept for a 3 to 4 year period.

3. The sod is plowed four to six weeks before seeding of a winter cereal to allow adequate decomposition of organic material.

4. The winter cereal is then followed by oil radish seeded in mid August. The system was developed so that, in almost all cases, living material is present on the soil surface at the beginning of winter. This not only reduces erosion but minimizes nutrient losses and weed reproduction.

5. Almost a quarter of the crops grown on this farm are sold as cash crops. Despite the large amount of biomass removed there has been no difficulty in maintaining fertility levels. The farmer attributes this to his rotation system’s ability to make use of previously unavailable nutrients, to oil radish bringing up nutrients from deep levels and to maintaining long-term hay and pasture.

6. Liquid Manure is collected by gravity from an open yard into a storage tank. It is micro-aerated to create aerobic composting conditions, and is applied after winter cereals, either before oil radish seeding or on growing oil radish. Compost is generally applied prior to seeding of fall rye.

7. Tillage includes chisel plowing the undersown red clover in the fall and moldboard plowing of hay or pasture. The surface cover going into winter will almost always be greater than 30%. A chisel plow is used on the oil radish in the spring.


2. Crop Rotation for Cash Crop and Beef

A. Rotation for 7 ha fields

Year 1: peas, oilradish

Year 2. Spring cereal undersown with red clover

Year 3. Clover, winter cereal

Year 4. Winter cereal, Buckwheat

B. Rotation for 4 ha fields.

Year 1. Alfalfa

Year 2. Alfalfa

Year 3. Alfalfa

Year 4. Corn, rye grass

Year 5. Peas, winter cereal

Year 6. Winter cereal, clover

Year 7. Vegetables

Year 8. Fababeans underseeded with forage.

This rotation was designed for Oak Manor Farms, Tavistock, Ontario.

Clay Loam soil, 2700 CHU.

Acreage: 183 acres workable

Livestock: 60 head beef cattle .

Milling operation.

Features of this rotation:

1.There are15 fields in this system. By varying the proportion of land in each of the rotations, the total acreage in different crops can be altered.

2. A “cleaning phase” for perennial weeds can be included in Rotation A if necessary. Clover is tilled in early summer, followed by shallow cultivations at 3-week intervals until winter cereal is planted.

3. Rotation B uses alfalfa to bring the perennial weeds under control. 4. Rotations alternate legumes and non-legumes and maintain a winter cover which helps keep quack grass under control.

5. Oat hulls (a low nitrogen by-product from the on-farm milling operation) may be applied to fields before planting alfalfa to stimulate nitrogen fixation.

6. Grass or alfalfa is undersown in fababeans to consume nitrogen which reduces pest and weed problems and stimulate nitrogen fixation.

7. Composted manure from the beef operation goes on corn, vegetables, and some cereals.

8. Primary tillage is carried out principally with offset discs or chisel plow

9. A diamond tooth harrow, rotary how, and row cultivator are used for weed control.

Crop rotations for farms without livestock

Rotation 1. ( Ontario)

Year 1: Winter wheat, oil radish

Year 2: Oats and peas underseeded with red clover

Year 3: Soybeans, winter rye

Year 4: Rye, buckwheat

Year 5. Barley underseeded with red clover

Year 6: Red clover harvested for seed.

Features of this rotation:

1. Since this rotation does not have 3 or 4 years in hay or pasture, it is essential to include legumes like soybeans, red clover and peas. This is especially important in a cash crop situation where no manure is available.

2. Year 6 has all the soil-building advantages of growing perennial forage, without the large carbon loss that would occur from selling hay off the farm.

3. The rotation allows the ground to be covered throughout winter every year (depending on soil type and the need for fall plowing.)

4. There is never more than one year without a legume.

5. Although the rotation is a fairly simple one, it still contains nine plant species.


Rotation #2

Year 1: Buckwheat, rye cover crop

Year 2: Soybeans overseeded with spelt or winter wheat

Year 3: Spelt, oil radish

Year 4: Oats underseeded with red clover

Year 5: Red Clover harvested for hay or seed, winter wheat

Year 6: Winter wheat, oil radish

Year 7: Barley underseeded with red clover

Features of this rotation:

1. Soybeans are grown the year after buckwheat to control buckwheat volunteers. Soybeans, being a row crop and a warm season crop, allow extra opportunities for cultivation to control weeds.

2. The soybeans and red clover supply the nitrogen for the heavy feeders. You can expect the red clover to supply about 60 to 80 lbs/acre of nitrogen and soybeans to supply about 20lbs/acre.

3. Two years of red clover are included to increase the organic matter and to condition the soil.

4. The soil is covered every winter.

5. Sunflowers could be inserted in the rotation in Year 4 after spelt and oil radish in Year 3. As sunflowers are both a row crop and show allelopathic properties this option will give another year for weed control.

6. Oats would then be grown in Year 5, and the rotation continued as before to make an eight year rotation.

7. Flax, which is a light feeder, could replace barley in Year 7.



Crop rotation for a dairy and cash crop farm and long-inoculate the soil with microorganismsadd organic matter, direct feeding of the crops.

In the f,ugh the.

* In the ,plough the oilseed radish.

* In the fall,

* The shan 30 percent as moldboard ploughis m* There are currentlythree This stimulates production of nitrogen-fixing nodules.

Cash Crop Rotation

ofugh theis thought to stimulate the


Crop rotation for laying-hen/grain farm

Year 1. Fababeans, straw & weed cover

Year 2. Oats underseeded with clover

Year 3. Clover

Year 4. Clover, Winter wheat

Year 5. Winter wheat, straw & weed cover.

Location: Tunworth Farm, Nova Scotia, loamy sand to sandy clay loam.

Features of this rotation.

1. Cereals alternate with legumes.

2. Off season weeds are allowed to grow after the fababeans to conserve nitrogen and act as self seeding cover crop.

3. Chicken manure is applied to winter wheat in the fall

4. Almost all the straw was left in the fields and incorporated by rotovating. The soil was then ridged to improve aeration and prevent phytotoxicty problems in the following crop.

2. Problems with Canada thistle are controlled by rotovating the clover in early June and cultivating at 21 day intervals until wheat is planted in late August

Winter wheat ( Ontario)by Jon Cloud of Soy City Foods

Rotation 3. (Prairies)

Year 1. Wheat

Year 2 Lentils or peas underseeded with sweet clover

Year 3. Sweet clover plowdown

Rotation 4. (Prairies

Year 1. Wheat

Year 2. Fax undersown with sweet clover

Year 3. Sweet clover plowdown

Year 4. Lentils, peas or beans.

Features of this rotation

1. The rotation contains crops from each of the three plant types - grass type small grains, broadleafs and legumes.

2. Safflower or sunflowers (oilseeds) could replace flax in year 2.

3. Sweet clover provides post harvest ground cover in year 2

4. The clover is mown at 10-20% bloom (mid June) in Year 3 and incorporated late July or August. It is rarely a liability in terms of moisture loss.

5. The sweet clover provides excellent weed control including control of canada thistle and field bindweed.

6 The clover seed is harrowed in about a week to10 days after planting the cash crop legume.


Copyright © 1992 Canadian Organic Growers. Inc

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.


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