Researchers working together to better understand the value of diversity in crop rotations

Diversity pays dividends in crop production but researchers, agronomists and farmers really don’t have a good grasp of how and why different crops impact each others in the rotation.

University of Guelph crop researcher Dr. Dave Hooker is never shy to champion more diverse rotations. Research from long-term trials at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown campus, for example, shows that diversifying corn-soy rotations to include wheat can have a significant impact on corn and soybean yields, increasing yields of the two crops between six and 17 bushels per acre.

But when it comes to diversity, Hooker thinks there’s more to the story and researchers need to learn more to help farmers improve their cropping systems.

That’s where Diverse Rotations Improve Valuable Ecosystems Services (DRIVES) comes in. This research group was initiated in the U.S. to pool data from long-term trials across North American to study how diversity can impact crop management including, weather and environmental effects. Hooker notes that the Ridgetown trials, ongoing since 1995, as well as trials from Ontario’s Elora Research station will be part of more than 20 long-term rotation research sites participating in the program.

He says DRIVES will focus on diversity but researchers are eager to better understand what is really driving the crop responses or mixture responses. “What is so special about some of these species that are driving the change or why some crops are performing better in a mixture or with higher diversity?

“This group is really looking into those functional aspects, and looking at how the crops vary with weather,” Hooker explains. “So as the climate is changing, as we get into different weather patterns, we can answer some of those questions. If we get more hot, dry conditions, how important are some of these cropping systems? How are they able to withstand some of those changes in the weather?”

Check out the full conversation in the video below with Hooker and RealAgriculture’s Bernard Tobin.

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