"Rotation" Might Be the Farm Buzzword of This Decade

Husker Home Place

Summer crops workshops and conversations with farmers point to rotation of everything we do as an answer to pest resistance challenges.

Published on: August 9, 2012

I’ve been attending workshops lately dealing with resistance issues. At the weed herbicide resistance field day in David City, I heard experts and researchers say that we need to rotate our way out of resistance issues. Rotate chemistries of our herbicides, rotate crops, rotate herbicide tolerance and insect traits. My head even started to rotate after a while.

We’ve heard this before. We’ve been told for years that rotation was a good idea. Crop rotation is a longstanding, time-honored practice for farmers. It breaks insect, weed and disease cycles. It keeps crop pests off balance. Longer rotations and more diversity in our cropping systems are our secret weapons. But, the economics of the day don’t always allow us to plant oats into our rotations as much as we’d like. Obviously, we pay for that down the road.

SOME TREATMENTS WORK AND SOME DONT: These trial plots at the weed herbicide resistance field day in David City exhibit some treatments that work on tough weeds, and some treatments that failed.
SOME TREATMENTS WORK AND SOME DON'T: These trial plots at the weed herbicide resistance field day in David City exhibit some treatments that work on tough weeds, and some treatments that failed.

Maybe the drought will remind us of the value of newer drought tolerant corn hybrids, as well as some worth of those traditional naturally drought tolerant crops like cereal grains, sunflowers and grain sorghum.

At a corn-on-corn clinic in Norfolk recently, we heard much the same thing. The “take home” point for me was that rotation is needed. If we are going to plant corn-on-corn, year after year, then we need to rotate the types of Bt proteins within the hybrids, to keep corn rootworms and other pests confused.

I thought it was interesting when several experts reminded us that resistance by weeds, diseases and insects is really nothing new. For centuries and perhaps even longer, all of these pests have found ways to survive. Super weeds have even overcome crop rotations, and so have corn rootworms. That’s Mother Nature. Weeds are ground cover and protect the soil in absence of other vegetation, so in some ways, they serve a purpose. However, these pests are unwanted in our crop fields.

So, these resistance issues shouldn’t come as any surprise. The point is that we will figure out ways to overcome resistance in pests, just as we have in the past. And, one of the best ways to beat the bugs, weeds and diseases is to rotate stuff. Rotate crops around to varied fields. Rotate your rotation, changing it up once in a while to keep the pests guessing.

In football, surprise and creativity can be great assets. I suppose we need to be more creative and innovative in our approach, as we keep on track with our best management practices, rotate those older chemistries, the traditional crops and even the traits of newer genetics into our systems.

Be sure to watch www.nebraskafarmer.com and watch for our upcoming September print issue of Nebraska Farmer for more news, information and tips on meeting the challenges of drought. Your best online resource for drought information is the Farm Progress drought site at www.DatelineDrought.com.