Diversifying Cropping Systems
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This informational bulletin helps farmers and agricultural educators begin thinking about how to diversify.
Growing alternative crops or trees to diversify a traditional farm rotation increases profits while lessening adverse environmental impacts. Yet, most U.S. farmers depend on just one or two crops. Close to 80 percent of the roughly 240 million acres of annual crops grown in the United States produces just corn, soybeans and wheat.
The agricultural landscape as a whole also has lost some of its natural features, from native trees along stream banks to fewer vegetative field borders. Diversifying can spread economic risk and offer profitable niche markets, lessen impact on environmental resources strained by monocultural systems and, sometimes, offer new opportunities to strengthen communities.
Karl Kupers, an eastern Washington grain grower, added new crops to his winter wheat/summer fallow rotation after receiving a grant from USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. "I look at this more diverse system as a tremendous opportunity to decrease chemical use and make more net profit per acre," he says.
- New cash crops
- Cover crops
SX1008, revised February 2004