In agriculture, crop rotation refers to growing of crops that are different from each other in successions on farm field in a specific period of time. In other words, it is growing of dissimilar crop or no crop during sequential seasons on the same of piece of land. The objective of crop rotation is to get maximum profit from investing minimum or making least investment without harming the fertility of soil.
Historian dates back crop rotation to 6000 B.C. when it was practiced by the farmers of Middle East. Interestingly, it is also believed that those farmers did not know the science behind this practice still the follow it. The logic is simple. It is practiced because if one cultivates same kind of crop over several years, the soil becomes weak and infertile. That same crop requires same kind of nutrients each year. And if crop rotation is not practiced, that kind of nutrients becomes exhausted. These nutrients have an additional duty of keeping the soil stable in terms of keeping the soil texture. In case of same crop growing again and again without crop rotation, the soil becomes susceptible to soil erosion due to weaker bonding between soil particles.
One cycle of crop rotation may acquire 1 or more farming years to complete. For irrigated areas, the farming year is of 12 months. However in rain fed or Barani areas, farming year is restricted to that period of time during which there is adequate availability of soil water.
Crop rotation is carried our extensively and is a common practice. Farm experts are of the view to rotate crops is such a manner that one cereal crop is succeeded by the legumes crop so that crop fertility remain stable.
Benefits of Crop Rotation
Effective tool to control pest.
Adequate management of nitrogen in soil or create nitrogen balance in soil.
Keep soil safe from wind and water erosion.
Keep greenhouse gas emissions at sustainable levels.
Increased soil productivity.
Minimize the use of pesticides thus reducing water and soil pollution.
In agriculture field, specifically in agronomy, there are various crops that are grown with a special purpose under certain circumstances. As these crops have to serve a special purpose, so they are termed as special purpose crops. These special purpose crops crops have great importance in agriculture not only because they provide food for consumption to both humans and livestock, but also they help farmers to safeguard their economic benefits.
Generally, 7 crops are included in special purpose crops classification. These are;
Green Manure Crops
Soilage Crops or Green Chop Crops
Green Manure Crops
These kinds of crops are grown to increase the fertility of soil. These crops are grown and then mix in the soil during ploughing. Sometime these are grown, cut and left in the ground for an prolonged period prior to applying tillage operations.
Brassica, Vetch, Clover, Alfalfa.
These are the crops grown for livestock and dairy consumption. The crops are grown, cut and preserved as silage. They are cut in succulent condition and through partial fermentation, silage is made. The advantage is continuous supply of fodder to animals during dry periods or when green fodder is not available.
Grasses, Miaze, Oat.
These are also called as critical crops as they are grown to fill in the space in case when main crop failed due to any reason or sowing of major crop is delayed for some reason. They are grown to cover economic less to some extent.
Sorghum and Maize for Fodder
Soilage Crops or Green Chop Crops
These are green fodder crops for the livestock and dairy animals. The Soilage crops are grown and harvested in green form and still succulent. These are fed directly to the animals in the farm.
It is a crop that is planted as a second crop in the agriculture fields, however after the first crop has achieved its reproductive growth but is not ready to harvest.
The sowing of Sugarcane in Sugar Beet is an example of relay cropping.
Companion crops are those crops in agriculture that are grown together. Like green legumes is grown mix with grasses. The objective is to increase the forage production as well as its quality. As these are grown together, so they are termed as companion crops.
Maize – Red Beans (Lobia) and Barley-Oat
These crops are grown with the objective to keep the soil safe from erosion. these are planted to cover the ground so that water and wind erosion don’t harm the soil plus it also safeguard nutrient loss by leaching. These are mostly spreading in nature plants i.e. the plant grown and cover large area of ground.
Tillage is the mechanical manipulation of soil to prepare it for crop cultivation by creating a favorable enabling environment for proper plant growth. It is carried our both by manually and mechanically. This is discussed in An Introduction to Soil Tillage. This article is going to highlight objectives of tillage .
Objectives of Tillage
To prepare and organize the seedbeds in the field to a satisfactory level that can support not only the optimum germination of the seedlings but also aid in proper establishment of the plant.
To control weeds in such a way that nutrients are absorb efficiently and effectively by the plants. This is also carried out to support a close plant-soil interaction within the rooting zone for proper nourishment of crop plants.
To enhance the physical condition of soil.
To break the hard pans of soil so that soil nutrients are readily available to crop plants.
To manage the crop plant remains by incorporating them into the soil. The plant residues can also be retained on the top layer. This promises a reduction in soil erosion problem.
To prepare soil for absorbing the rain water efficiently.
To integrate and mix the fertilizers applied into the soil so that they are readily available to the crop plants.
To form specific surface configurations for the purpose of sowing, irrigation, drainage, pesticide and fertilizer application etc.
To destroy the eggs of crop pests and larvae of insects. This aids in destroying the breeding places of these pests.
To accelerate the process of drying and warming of soil and exclusion of toxic gases.
To facilitate and minimize the irrigation water usage in the crop fields.
There are hundreds of crops grown in agriculture sector. These crops are grouped together or more precisely classified into various categories based on agronomic classification, seasonal classification special purpose classification etc.
The purpose of these classifications is to learn about the agriculture crops more deeply and accurately to judge their characteristics so that best agronomic practices can be applied to get maximum production and yield.
In this article, you will find the classification of crop plants in agriculture based on agronomic classification. In agronomic classification, crops are divided into 10 categories. A brief about each category is given below along with the suitable examples.
1 Cereal or Grain Crops
Cereal Crops or grain crops belong to the grass family. These are cultivated and utilized for their edible starch rich seeds. These are regarded as the base crops to make people food secure around the globe. The widely known cereal crop is the Wheat. It is the largest crop utilized globally. It is used in the form of its flour.
Other important cereal crops include Oats, Barley, Corn, Rye, Sorghum and Rice. This group provides the most important staple crops to the 7 billion people of the globe.
2 Legume Crops
Legume crops constitute the most important agronomic crops, known for fixing atmospheric nitrogen into the soil for further agriculture activities. Legumes have bacteria on their roots that fix nitrogen gas into usable form. Legumes are the most important source of protein in agriculture world. Important crops included in legumes are Peas, Groundnut, Lentils, Broad Beans, Chick Peas, Alfalfa, Clover etc.
3 Forage Crops
Like cereals have importance for humans, forage crops are the source of food for animals, livestock and wildlife. In other words, forage crops are the lifeline for animals on earth. Forage crops are utilized as feed for livestock in various ways like drying them to make hay or ferment them to prepare silage or even mechanized processing of forage crops results in making of pellets or cubes that are fit for animal consumption. Important forage crops include grasses, crucifers and legumes.
Agriculture science is a vast field that covers broad spectrum of farming activities. Out of these, agronomy can be regarded as the ‘true’ agriculture. This is because of what a layman perceives from the word ‘agronomy’ and its application at the field level. This article will provide a brief introduction of agronomy along with scope of career in agronomy.
To get more deep insight of what is agronomy? Let’s do the word analysis of the term agronomy.
Agronomy is derived from a Greek word “Agro’ meaning field and “Nomo” meaning management. It is quite understandable now basically what agronomy is? For a new entrant in the field of agriculture science, agronomy is that part of science that deals with smart and integrated management of farming activities by following holistic approach to achieve highest production and yield.
In agronomy we deal with the practices & principles of water, soil & crop management and it focuses on the relation of plants with the soil and climate. It covers all aspects of farming like sowing, irrigation, soil, seed, fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide, weeding, harvesting, post-harvest treatment, packaging and all other crop management practices with the aim to increase productivity and yield of farm crops.
It should now be cleared that agronomy is itself a vast field of knowledge. Sometimes agronomy is confused with horticulture, another branch of agriculture science, due to many similarities. However one should know that if he/she needs literature in cereal crops, then agronomy books should be consulted. However, still there are certain crops that can confuse a layman or freshly enrolled graduate. For example, corn is an agronomic crop, however, sweet or young corn is also considered as horticultural crop. Similarly, if pineapple is grown for fruit purpose, then it is horticulture crop while if it is cultivated for fiber purpose, then it is an agronomic crop.
In this scenario, there should be mark difference between agronomic and horticultural crops. Usual way of classification depends on the area of cultivation. In agronomy, crops are cultivated on vast lands while horticulture is usually concern with the cultivation in gardens and orchards which are smaller is size. However, still there are disagreements over this approach. Few other approaches to classify these two are; in agronomic crops, the consumers are both humans and animals, while in horticulture, the consumers are human. Agronomic crops are harvested usually at maturity and horticulture crops are harvested at various stages. There is high aesthetic sense attached to horticultural crops as compare to agronomic crops. Also management practices are intensive in case of horticulture crops while extensive in agronomic crops.
Major Concern of an Agronomist
The agronomist, one who studies and have expertise in agronomy, has concerned with the restoration and conservation of soil fertility, use of optimal seed rate and preparation of seedbeds to enhance productivity, manage time and dates of sowing and harvesting of crops as per climatic conditions, test new varieties in fields, conservation of soil moisture, management of weeds are and all other agronomic practices that make the finite land and water resources we have in hand, more productive.
Career in Agronomy
The role of an agronomist is increasing; varying and becoming challenging as farming is now facing multidimensional challenges in the 21st century. Agronomy as a field is seeking skilled, passionate and hardworking job seekers to make it an exciting career with huge opportunities nationally and globally.
Like i said earlier, agronomy is a vast field than any other branch of agriculture. Job prospective is also wide. The condition is only one. You should be passionate to learn, use out of the box approach in the field, ready to accept innovation and advancement and incorporate all these factors in you as your skills.
After acquiring a professional degree in agronomy, the graduate has two choices to avail. Either he can start his own business and becomes an entrepreneur or get hired by government institutions or private giants, corporations etc.
Business Career in Agronomy
Like many other business, this business does not require large investment. You can be a consultant to farmer or a farming community. Large farmers always require expertise of a qualified agronomist to look after their business by providing services.
An agronomist can start an import export business of certified seeds, fertilizer, pesticides etc. He can become a wholesale distributor or can be a retailer of specific products. It is better to create a specific niche to deal in. This means, it is good to deal in limited products like seed or fertilizer rather than involving and expanding the business at once.
Another opportunity is to become distributor of an agronomic product. Many multinational companies seek expertise of agronomist to sale their products. An agronomist is in a good position to market the product by convincing the customer logically and scientifically.
Job Career in Agronomy
In the developing countries, where agriculture has central position in the economic structure, agronomists have bright scope in government jobs as well as in private sector. A graduate holding 4 years bachelor degree in agronomy gets fair chance to get hire. The major options are research, teaching and on-farm jobs. In research, they can experiment with new verities in labs to get better yield and improve quality. In teaching, colleges and universities hire agronomists. On-farm duties include experimenting new farming practices for better management. The salaries are competitive especially in private sector.
International Scope for an Agronomist
International scope for an agronomist is bright. In the Middle-Eastern countries, the demand of agronomists is on boom. They offer handsome salaries. Besides earning a good living, a benefit of working in Middle-Eastern countries is the scope of learning, an agronomist gets hand on. They have monetary resources, so these countries are ready to experiment on new ideas to have sustainable food supply. Other international job avenues include Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO), World Food Program (WFP), United Nations Development Program (UNDP) etc.
According to US Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS), an agronomist was earning $49,840 annually in 2016. Also according to US BLS, there is a projection of 5% increase jobs for agriculturists in US in the coming decade. For other countries, the projection is somewhat same as expansion and contraction in US economy has global impact. So international scope for an agronomist is not going to face recession in near future.
Last but not the least; being agronomist, you have a safe and sustainable profession waiting for you. The demand of food is constant or increasing with population explosion. In my opinion, agronomists have always a better outlook for jobs than other fields of agriculture.