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60 Ways Farmers Can Protect  Surface Water
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7. Rotate Crops

beans and wheat The current consensus is that crop rotation increases yield and profit. At times, an increase in nitrogen from legumes in the rotation is primarily responsible for the yield increase; at other times, the decrease in pest pressure has a major influence. But even those two factors do not entirely explain the yield boost.

Over the years, there has been a significant shift away from extended, or long-term, crop rotations, which include sod, pasture, or hay. The vast majority of corn land is grown in a short-term rotation with soybeans, and this has greatly affected the rate of soil erosion.

cattle in a pasture Extended rotations that include sod, pasture, or hay crops can dramatically reduce soil erosion when compared to continuous monoculture. But short-term rotations can actually increase soil erosion when compared to continuous corn. The main reason is the soybean crop, which leaves a fragile residue that is more easily destroyed than corn residue.
farmer checking soybeans Even though short-term rotations that include soybeans can lead to more erosion, they still offer pest-control benefits. Rotations help to control weeds, and are particularly effective in controlling highly mobile insects—such as the northern corn rootworm. They also help to prevent the build-up of disease.
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