Organic crop rotations


Soil Association
November 2015
Creative Commons Licence
Applied research
Key Farming Practices: 
Diversified rotation
Green manures

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Resource explained: 

It is good practice to not grow the same crop family on a piece of land more than once in every four years in crop rotations. Exceptions are when a fertility-building crop such as grass/clover ley is grown for two or three successive years or when a perennial or biennial crop is grown. This Soil Association (SA) factsheet provides guidance to help you plan and manage your crop rotations. It covers:

  • The role of a rotation.
  • Conformance to rules and regulations.
  • Crop rotations as part of cropping plans necessary for conversion to organic status.
  • Required, recommended, permitted and prohibited practices according to SA standards.
  • Factors to consider when designing a rotation.
  • Green manure crops for fertility building (legumes and non legumes).
  • Example of a typical rotation.
  • Key considerations when planning a rotation.
  • Rotations for disease, pest and weed control.
  • Potential grant aid.
  • Case study examples of rotations on organic holdings.
Findings & recommendations: 
  • A good rotation will help you maintain soil quality, avoid pest and disease buildup, reduce weed problems, spread labour costs and reduce financial risks.
  • When planning a rotation you need to consider factors such as nutrient budgets, soil type, financial budget, labour and machinery demands, balancing the range of crops and monitoring the rotation.
  • Grass/clover leys encourage improvement in the soil structure over time, so you achieve greatest benefits after a long fertility-building period. This also ensures that nutrient levels have more time to build up before the rotation enters the cash-cropping phase.
  • Using rotations will help you reduce the levels of many diseases and control many soil-borne nematode pests.
  • Alternating leafy crops that compete well with weeds with those that do not compete well or do not germinate quickly will keep weeds in check.
  • Where vegetables are grown on arable farms, it may be possible to claim set-aside payments for land on which grass/clover leys are used for fertility-building.
  • This document includes useful quick reference tables on: the vegetable plant families; examples of fertility-building green manure crops; diseases that can be controlled by rotations; and pests that can be controlled by rotations.