AskDefine | Define fallow

Dictionary Definition

fallow adj
1 left unplowed and unseeded during a growing season; "fallow farmland"
2 undeveloped but potentially useful; "a fallow gold market" n : cultivated land that is not seeded for one or more growing seasons

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Pronunciation

  • (UK): /ˈfæləʊ/, /"f

Extensive Definition

"Fallow" redirects here. For the album by The Weakerthans, see Fallow (album).
Crop rotation or Crop sequencing is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same space in sequential seasons for various benefits such as to avoid the build up of pathogens and pests that often occurs when one species is continuously cropped. Crop rotation also seeks to balance the fertility demands of various crops to avoid excessive depletion of soil nutrients. A traditional component of crop rotation is the replenishment of nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals and other crops. It is one component of polyculture. Crop rotation can also improve soil structure and fertility by alternating deep-rooted and shallow-rooted plants.

Method and purpose

Crop rotation avoids a decrease in soil fertility, as growing the same crop repeated in the same place eventually depletes the soil of various nutrients. A crop that leaches the soil of one kind of nutrient is followed during the next growing season by a dissimilar crop that returns that nutrient to the soil or draws a different ratio of nutrients, for example, rices followed by cottons. By crop rotation farmers can keep their fields under continuous production, without the need to let them lie fallow, and reducing the need for artificial fertilizers, both of which can be expensive. Rotating crops add nutrients to the soils.
Legumes, plants of the family Fabaceae, for instance, have nodules on their roots which contain nitrogen-fixing bacteria. It therefore makes good sense agriculturally to alternate them with cereals (family Poaceae) and other plants that require nitrates. A common modern crop rotation is alternating soybeans and maize (corn). In subsistence farming, it also makes good nutritional sense to grow beans and grain at the same time in different fields.
Crop rotation is also used to control pests and diseases that can become established in the soil over time. Plants within the same taxonomic family tend to have similar pests and pathogens. By regularly changing the planting location, the pest cycles can be broken or limited. For example, root-knot nematode is a serious problem for some plants in warm climates and sandy soils, where it slowly builds up to high levels in the soil, and can severely damage plant productivity by cutting off circulation from the plant roots. Growing a crop that is not a host for root-knot nematode for one season greatly reduces the level of the nematode in the soil, thus making it possible to grow a susceptible crop the following season without needing soil fumigation.
It is also difficult to control weeds similar to the crop which may contaminate the final produce. For instance, ergot in weed grasses is difficult to separate from harvested grain. A different crop allows the weeds to be eliminated, breaking the ergot cycle.
This principle is of particular use in organic farming, where pest control may be achieved without synthetic pesticides.
A general effect of crop rotation is that there is a geographic mixing of crops, which can slow the spread of pests and diseases during the growing season. The different crops can also reduce the effects of adverse weather for the individual farmer and, by requiring planting and harvest at different times, allow more land to be farmed with the same amount of machinery and labor.
The choice and sequence of rotation crops depends on the nature of the soil, the climate, and precipitation which together determine the type of plants that may be cultivated. Other important aspects of farming such as crop marketing and economic variables must also be considered when choosing a crop rotation.

History

Early crop rotation methods were mentioned in Roman literature, and referred to by several civilizations in Asia and Africa. During the Muslim Agricultural Revolution of the Islamic Golden Age, Muslim engineers and farmers introduced a new modern rotation system where land was cropped four times or more in a two-year period. Winter crops were followed by summer ones, and in some cases there was a crop in between. In areas where plants of shorter growing season were used, ie.spinach and eggplants, the land could be cropped three or more times a year. According to some sources, in parts of Yemen wheat yielded two harvests a year on the same land, as did rice in Iraq. Scholars such as Andrew Watson have written of a Muslim agricultural revolution as the Islamic world made significant progress in developing a more "scientific" approach based on three major elements: sophisticated systems of crop rotation, highly developed irrigation techniques and introduction of a large variety of crops which were studied and catalogued according to the season, type of land and amount of water they require. Numerous farming encyclopaedias, with surprisingly great precision and details, were produced.
From the end of the Middle Ages until the 20th century, the three-year rotation was practiced by farmers in Europe with a rotation of rye or winter wheat, followed by spring oats or barley, then letting the soil rest (leaving it fallow) during the third stage. The fact that suitable rotations made it possible to restore or to maintain a productive soil has long been recognized by planting spring crops for livestock in place of grains for human consumption.
A four-field rotation was pioneered by farmers, namely in the region Waasland in the early 16th century and popularised by the British agriculturist Charles Townshend in the 18th century. The system (wheat, barley, turnips and clover), opened up a fodder crop and grazing crop allowing livestock to be bred year-round. The four-field crop rotation was a key development in the British Agricultural Revolution.
George Washington Carver pioneered crop rotation methods in the United States by teaching southern farmers to rotate soil depleting crops like cotton with soil enriching crops like peanuts and peas. http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventors/carver.htm
In the Green revolution, the traditional practice of crop rotation gave way in some parts of the world to the practice of supplementing the chemical inputs to the soil through top dressing with fertilizers, e.g., adding ammonium nitrate or urea and restoring soil pH with lime in the search for increased yields, preparing soil for specialist crops, and seeking to reduce waste and inefficiency by simplifying planting and harvesting. Some disadvantages of this type of monoculture have since become apparent, notably from the perspective of sustainable agriculture and the risk of catastrophic crop failure.

See also

References

External links

fallow in Bulgarian: Сеитбообращение
fallow in Czech: Osevní postup
fallow in German: Fruchtfolge
fallow in Modern Greek (1453-): Αγραναύπαυση
fallow in Spanish: Rotación de cultivos
fallow in Esperanto: Kultivciklo
fallow in French: Rotation culturale
fallow in Italian: Rotazione delle colture
fallow in Hebrew: מחזור זרעים
fallow in Lithuanian: Sėjomaina
fallow in Hungarian: Vetésforgó
fallow in Dutch: Vruchtwisseling
fallow in Japanese: 転作
fallow in Polish: Płodozmian
fallow in Russian: Севооборот
fallow in Simple English: Crop Rotation
fallow in Slovenian: Kolobarjenje
fallow in Finnish: Vuoroviljely
fallow in Swedish: Träda

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

acarpous, achromatic, achromic, anemic, arable land, arid, ashen, ashy, at leisure, at liberty, at loose ends, aureate, auric, available, backset, barnyard, barren, barton, beige, bled white, bloodless, buff, buff-yellow, cadaverous, canary, canary-yellow, cattle ranch, celibate, chicken farm, childless, chloranemic, citron, citron-yellow, collective farm, colorless, cotton plantation, cream, creamy, croft, cultivate, culture, cut, dairy farm, dead, deadly pale, deathly pale, delve, demesne, demesne farm, desert, desolate, dig, dim, dimmed, dingy, discolored, disengaged, drained, dress, dried-up, dry, dry farm, dude ranch, dull, ecru, etiolated, exhausted, exsanguinated, exsanguine, exsanguineous, factory farm, faded, faint, farm, farmery, farmhold, farmland, farmplace, farmstead, farmyard, fertilize, flat, flaxen, force, free, fruit farm, fruitless, fur farm, gaunt, gelded, ghastly, gilded, gilt, gold, gold-colored, golden, grain farm, grange, grassland, gray, hacienda, haggard, harrow, hoe, homecroft, homefarm, homestead, hueless, hypochromic, idle, impotent, ineffectual, infecund, infertile, issueless, jejune, jobless, kibbutz, kolkhoz, lackluster, leached, leaden, leisure, leisured, lemon, lemon-yellow, list, livid, location, lumpen, lurid, lusterless, luteolous, lutescent, mains, manor farm, mat, mealy, menopausal, muddy, mulch, neutral, nonfertile, nonproducing, nonproductive, nonprolific, ocherish, ocherous, ochery, ochreous, ochroid, ochrous, ochry, off, off duty, off work, or, orchard, otiose, out of employ, out of harness, out of work, pale, pale as death, pale-faced, pallid, pasture, pasty, pen, plantation, plow, poultry farm, primrose, primrose-colored, primrose-yellow, prune, rake, ranch, rancheria, rancho, saffron, saffron-colored, saffron-yellow, sallow, sand-colored, sandy, sheep farm, sickly, sine prole, spade, station, steading, sterile, stock farm, straw, straw-colored, sucked dry, tallow-faced, teemless, thin, thin out, till, till the soil, toft, toneless, truck farm, uncolored, uncultivated, unemployable, unemployed, unfertile, unfruitful, unoccupied, unplowed, unproductive, unprolific, unsown, untilled, virgin, wan, washed-out, waste, wasted, waxen, weak, weed, weed out, whey-faced, white, without issue, work, xanthic, xanthous, yellow, yellowish
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