Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Crop Rotation on Our Farm

Senior Reader
0 0 5,187

I am not sure if we are blessed or cursed on our farm here in North Dakota in that we plan a variety of crops. I think it intrigues people and even some farmers on the diversity we plant up here. North Dakota has a history of diverse crops; in fact, someone like my husband’s grandfather didn’t originally plant many of the crops we plant now. Crops of the past such as wheat, barley, oats, sunflowers, and flax have been slowly phased out for crops like corn and soybeans. But on our farm, we still continue some of the tried and true crops in our area. The reasons behind this are numerous and with this post, I hope to shed some light on those reasons.


On our farm we grow four different crops. And we grow these crops, honestly, because we have the opportunity to do so. Planting a variety of crops for our operation lowers our risk. What I mean by that is that in our area we can have a great short season and a bad long season or vice versa. In turn, we utilize a variety of short season AND long season crops. Our climate and seasons simply aren’t set up for a full season crop such as corn all the time.


Crop Rotation.jpg


Out of the four crops we plant, two are broadleaf and two are grasses. We cycle them through in rotations from grass to broadleaf and repeat. A rotation like this also allows us to change modes of herbicide action so that we aren’t putting the same herbicides on the field time and time again.


The Four Crops We Plant





We plant sunflowers on our farm because it is a good warm season broadleaf that utilizes the leftover nitrogen in the soil from the previous corn crop. The flowers are planted in between the previous year’s corn rows. We are fortunate in our area to be able to plant sunflowers as many places around us are too wet or have a problem with blackbirds. Sunflowers are also the crop we’ve become known to produce, as my husband is well known as Sunflowerfarmer across social media.


Wheat Harvest 2013-14.jpg.jpg



Wheat is an original crop grown to this area and we choose to put it in our rotation because it is a great short season grass. We seed wheat into sunflower residue because as a short season crop, it does well after a full season crop like sunflowers. Sunflowers also tend to leave behind limited water so if you were to plant another full season crop like corn, it could run out of water later in the year. With a short season crop like wheat, we typically don’t have this problem.


Sunflowers and Soybeans -19.jpg



Soybeans are a great stable crop for our area. Soybeans allow us to maintain good weed control as well as are a pretty  tolerant crop. We need a crop that can be seeded into wheat residue that has the potential to be wet and soybeans allow us to seed in a wide range of planting dates.





Corn, for the most part, is an opportunity crop in our area. If you can get quality yield and good prices, corn does very well for us. But you can only sustain so many acres in corn because it’s a hedge on risk. We plant our corn early, as corn is a full season crop, and on soybean ground because the soybeans leave us with low residue in the field.


I want to be sure I state that this is simply what works for our farm. It is by no means a rigid set of rules or guidelines for others in our area to farm. In fact, all farms differ. From year to year, for some farms, the crops may vary or crops may stay the same. Not all farms have the opportunity to do a rotation like this, some areas are simply not set up for certain crops. As you can tell from this post, crop choice and rotation hinges on many different factors. This year we are even going back to a crop of the past and planting some fields into flax.


Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each farm to decide for themselves what is the most beneficial and profitable for their farm all while keeping all those various factors like soil, nutrients, water, residue, etc. in mind when picking crops to plant. Choosing crops and seed varieties are not a choice that any farmer takes lightly. It takes time, research, and even counsel sometimes to find what is best for your farm. And for some it takes trail and error before they figure out what works and what doesn’t. It is much like anything in life, finding a good balance is key. 

About the Author
Jennifer is a self proclaimed country girl born and raised in Northern California. After joining social media, Jenny met a farmer from North Dakota. She followed her heart all the way to the rural prairies of ND where she is now married to that farmer. Besides spending time with her farmer, Jenny can be found with a camera in hand capturing the world around her, loves the challenges of bringing culture to the North Dakota prairie through a variety of culinary creations, and using her interior design degree to flip their bachelor pad into a home. All of this and more can be found on her photography blog: