Crop Rotation Key to Long-Term Vegetable Production Success

Clint Thompson Alabama, Top Posts

File photo shows a tomato plant being planted.

One of the most fundamental practices regarding vegetable production is the implementation of crop rotation.

Joe Kemble, Alabama Extension vegetable specialist, said crop rotation is a basic practice that is beneficial for any crop that’s grown.

“Unfortunately in the south, we rarely have a break in season; a hard freeze and things like that which can help lower pest pressure. Crop rotation really becomes key in terms of helping to at least reduce that load, putting a non-host crop out there to hopefully decrease whatever organism you’re concerned about,” Kemble said.

“We have a lot of endemic soil-borne diseases in Alabama, as well as Georgia and Southeast; nematodes, they can really be a major factor. Anything you can do to potentially reduce that, it’s beneficial.”

3 to 5 Years In Between Same Vegetable Groups

Kemble said to avoid planting the same vegetable or its relative in the same spot for at least 3 to 5 years. Vegetables that belong to the same plant family share many of the same pests and diseases. He insists the more time in between vegetables in a given field the better.

“There’s actually some pretty good evidence out there in terms of research basically showing that longer the rotation to a non-host crop the better. The evidence is pretty overwhelming saying any rotation is beneficial even if it’s a short period,” Kemble said.

Crop rotation helps replenish soil fertility and add organic matter. It provides complementary fertilization to crops in sequence with each other; such as a legume crop preceding sweet corn or tomatoes.

It also is a good practice for those who rent fields to investigate what crops have been produced in a field in previous years before planting.

Kemble Comments

“Where I see the biggest problem typically, is not always the grower’s fault, but a lot of times you may be renting land to use this year and you may not know what the history of the land was,” Kemble said.

“Honestly, most growers use rotation. Depending on the particular situation they’ve got, they recognize it as a tried and true method to help reduce some of the issues that they typically have to deal with.”

For more information, click here to view Kemble’s Facebook Live webinar on the Alabama Vegetable IPM Facebook page