Crop Rotation Counts: Key Findings from Long-Term Rotation Plot Research

Key findings

Crop rotation counts: Higher yield

Improve yield of corn and soybean by adding a small grain cereal (e.g., winter wheat) or a forage crop to your farm’s corn-soybean rotation.

Crop rotation counts: More resilient during drought years

Prepare for drought years by adding a small grain cereal, such as winter wheat, to your farm’s corn-soybean rotation.

Crop rotation counts: Improves soil nitrogen use efficiency

Reduce your dependence on nitrogen fertilizer for corn by adding a small grain cereal (e.g., winter wheat) to your farm’s corn-soybean rotation and underseed it to red clover.

Crop rotation counts: Improves soil health

Improve soil quality by adding a small grain cereal (e.g., winter wheat) or a forage crop to your farm’s corn-soybean rotation.

Celebrating 65 years of crop rotation research at the Elora Research Station and Ridgetown Campus

It can take time to understand trends and see results. That’s where long-term research at Ontario’s agricultural research stations comes in. For decades, long-term trials at the Elora Research Station and Ridgetown Campus have generated evidence farmers can be confident in using to make decisions related to crop rotation, tillage systems and nitrogen management.

In 2020 the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance celebrated the 40th and 25th anniversaries of the long-term rotation plots at the Ontario Crops Research Centres in Elora and Ridgetown, which are owned by the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario (ARIO) and managed by the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance. This research into long-term crop rotation, tillage systems and nitrogen management has generated results that benefit the agri-food sector in Ontario and around the world.

Working with the Alliance, we have distilled four key findings about the importance of crop rotation and how it affects various on-farm outcomes including crop yield, resilience during dry years, nitrogen use efficiency and soil health into a series of key findings infographics to help crop advisors and farmers make on-farm decisions to remain competitive and sustainable.

If you’ve toured, visited or benefitted from crop research at one of the agricultural research stations across the province and are comfortable with sharing your experience with us and potentially be featured in our communications, please share your experience by emailing kttadmin@uoguelph.ca. We could use it when we share more soil health information in the future.

The evidence

The findings published by University of Guelph researchers are the evidence used to create the four key findings highlighted in the infographic series.

Crop rotation counts: Higher yield

  1. Gaudin ACM, Janovicek K, Deen B, Hooker DC. (2015). Wheat improves nitrogen use efficiency of maize and soybean-based cropping systems. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 210:1-10.
  2. Gaudin ACM, Tolhurst TN, Ker AP, Janovicek K, Tortora C, Martin RC, Deen B. (2015). Increasing crop diversity mitigates weather variations and improves yield stability. PLoS ONE 10(2):e0113261.

Crop rotation counts: More resilient during drought years

  1. Gaudin ACM, Tolhurst TN, Ker AP, Janovicek K, Tortora C, Martin RC, Deen B. (2015). Increasing crop diversity mitigates weather variations and improves yield stability. PLoS ONE 10(2):e0113261.

Crop rotation counts: Improves soil nitrogen use efficiency

  1. Van Eerd LL, Congreves K, Hayes A, Verhallen A, Hooker D. (2014). Long-term tillage and crop rotation effects on soil quality, organic carbon, and total nitrogen. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 94:303-315.
  2. Gaudin ACM, Janovicek K, Deen B, Hooker DC (2015) Wheat improves nitrogen use efficiency of maize and soybean-based cropping systems. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 210:1-10.

Crop rotation counts: Improves soil health

  1. Van Eerd LL, Congreves K, Hayes A, Verhallen A, Hooker D. (2014). Long-term tillage and crop rotation effects on soil quality, organic carbon, and total nitrogen. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 94:303-315.

Dig deeper: further reading

Stories about the long-term plots