After viewing the videos on No-Till Conservation (See Below)., develop a discussion post that includes your view of this video? Is it accurate with the reading from this week? Is it practical? Is it sustainable? Why/Why not?Reading https://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/Bulletins/Div…Videos https://gaininggroundvirginia.org/video/gaining-gr…
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CROPPING SYSTEMS: The various types of cropping systems allow farmers
to manage crops to efficiently use the available climatic and soil resource. Of
course, some systems are more sustainable than others. All cropping systems
vary in their biodiversity, or species of living organisms in an agroecosystem.
Biodiversity includes richness (number of species or number of crops) and
evenness (distribution or relative abundance of the individuals of a specie).
Biodiversity is essential in a sustainable system, primarily because it provides
for a balance of beneficial and harmful organisms, and, it provides one
method of prevention or resistance to crop failure due to extremes in weather
or pest populations.
The cropping systems that will be covered in this lecture include: Monoculture,
polyculture, multiple cropping, and agroforestry.
Monoculture: defined as repeated production of one crop on a given piece of
land over time, and results in highly specific production practices and
mechanization needs. Mostly grain crops are grown in monocultures,
including corn, wheat, soybean, and rice. Although monocultures allow for a
concentration of efforts and resources for maximizing economic returns, the
impact on diversity does not go unnoticed. The grain crops produced in a
monoculture are at risk for disease or pest infestation, especially if only one
variety is used. And, without diversity or expansion in types of crops
produced, a single natural disaster could potentially destroy the entire crop
(whereas if there were different crops, others may not be lost). Yet, do the
benefits outweigh the disadvantages? From a sustainable standpoint, no. With
new technologies emerging, monocultures are simply not necessary. Data
from 2007 report that 90 million acres in the US were planted in corn, in
anticipation of large profits with the push for ethanol production. This
monoculture and example of continuous cropping (same crop grown for 2 or
more years) can have an impact on the soil quality and the environment. A
study conducted by Randall et al. indicates that continuous cropping of corn
results in a loss of 35.2kg of nitrogen (over a 4-year period). Nitrogen is an
essential component to soil, and is absolutely required for production and
growth of plants. Where is the nitrogen going? It is speculated that the
nitrogen loss is a result of an increase in drainage volume, or a decrease in
the ability of the soil to hold nutrients. Therefore, this will directly impact the
environment as the nitrogen will eventually end up in our waterways.
Polyculture: also termed intercropping, is defined as the growing of two or
more crops together on the same piece of land during a growing season.
Diversity is key in a polyculture, and is one of the most important components
in a stable, sustainable agriculture system. Polycultures have shown data to
support an improvement in pest management, nutrient cycling, resource use,
and yield increases. Management decisions must be made on the types of
crops to grow in this system, as crops that are more compatible will decrease
the possibility of the crops competing for available resources. Further, spacing
the crops accordingly is also critical, as the requirements for water may be
different. One other consideration is the idea of allelopathy in a polyculture
(see lecture on IPM for refresher!).
Multiple Cropping: defined as the sequential production of two or more
different crops from the same piece of land each year. This system utilizes the
land to its fullest potential. Generally, multiple cropping is practiced in regions
with a long growing season (and production of summer and winter annual
crops). Occasionally termed double crop where two crops are planted yearly,
multiple cropping is seen in various parts of the US with much success. The
question lies, is this practice sustainable? One specific example of multiple
cropping is utilizing a cover crop. Now, what is your answer to the previous
question ..? Cover crops, in general, are grown to protect the soil from wind
and water erosion after the cash crop has been harvested. Further, cover
crops can absorb any excess fertilizer that may have been applied to the cash
crop, and is still evident in the soil. Most importantly, cover crops enhance soil
fertility for the next crop through addition of atmospheric nitrogen or organic
Agroforestry: is defined as a specific intercropping system that combines the
cultivation of trees with other trees, livestock, and/or annual and perennial
crops. How is this system considered sustainable? With the permenant
above-ground structures, trees actually stabilize the system. There is a
reduction in water and wind movement, reduction in soil erosion, moderation
of temperature extremes, and an increase in soil fertility. Sharing of resources
is more efficient, as light, moisture, and nutrients are distributed horizontally
and vertically. There is less maintenance on trees, and management is shortterm. Therefore, energy inputs to maintain this type of system is relatively low.
The system of agroforestry has been successful in regions of Nigeria, where
Leucaena (firewood production) is planted with corn or sorghum. See the
following clip on Agroforestry: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=8c6xe3R4Mb0
, 3 Schaeffer, C. 2009. Introduction to Agronomy. Delmar Publishing
 Powers, L. 2000. Ecological Principles of Agriculture. Thompson Learning
 Powers, L. 2000. Ecological Principles of Agriculture. Thompson Learning
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