Heal your Soil and Remove Weeds with a Crop Rotation

Just as farmers get worn out, so does soil.  When ag producers use the same land for the same crop year after year, they end up building cycles of pests and disease which become harder and harder to break.  Instead of fighting the same old battles against pests and disease, why not consider a crop rotation once-and-awhile to shake things up a bit? Not only will it give you a fresh challenge, but it will also help mitigate weed and soil problems.

Growing the same crop in the same soil year after year eventually depletes your soil of nutrients, which requires more aggressive fertilizing each spring.  It also requires continued vigilance in spraying for weeds which have learned to adapt to your predictable crop habits.

Once when I was raising barley, I noticed that my wild oats were getting out of control.  Adding to the problem was an infestation of unwelcome blue barley that expanded its footprint every year.  I wanted to nuke the blue barley with an aggressive herbicide, but the problem with blue barley is that it begins to grow later after the good barley has sprouted.  Therefore, killing the blue barley would mean also killing the good barley around it.  And of course, there was the milkweed and other broadleaf pests.

Rest the Soil

Although there is wisdom in rotating a crop to replenish soil nutrients, the main motivation for me to rotate my crop was to solve the weed problem.  I opted to rotate canola in and give barley a break for one year.  Canola grows up to five feet tall and produces seeds that are crushed to create canola oil.  Not to be confused with the soothing oils sold by doTERRA or Melaleuca, my choice to raise canola was based simply on the fact that I could plant a “Round-up Ready” variety of canola which means it won’t die when sprayed with Round-up herbicide thus allowing me to wait until ALL the weeds were growing (including the pesky blue barley patch).

Raising canola was certainly different than raising barley.  I had to make adjustments to the seeding drill so it could accommodate a much smaller seed:  The wheel line could only be used for a first irrigation because the canola simply grew too tall; the swather (windrower) needed to be resurrected from a decades-long slumber due to our habit of straight-cutting barley; and bin storage had to be updated with a sophisticated temperature gauging system to ensure the canola seeds didn’t spoil in hot weather. 

The Result?

Rotating canola in was a choice that worked wonders for our weed control.  We cleared the land of wild oats and blue barley and reinvigorated the soil with naturally-supplied nutrients. 

We also learned a lot in the process.  Our confidence in trying new crops increased which will make it easier to adapt to new changes in the ag landscape in the future.