Extended Crop Rotations

Photo courtesy NRCS

Crop rotation is a system of growing different kinds of crops in recurrent succession on the same land. Extended crop rotations have more diversity or more types of crops than the average series of crops in rotation. For example, adding wheat to a corn-soybean rotation series, would increase the types of crops in the rotation series and could be referred to as an extended crop rotation.

Extended crop rotations have the potential to build soil organic matter, increase carbon sequestration, improve soil quality and minimize greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing the diversity of cropping systems has the potential to maximize resiliency of the corn-based system under variable weather conditions. Much of the Corn Belt states have a significant percentage of agricultural land area in a corn-soybean crop rotation. When corn prices increase, corn-soybean rotations are often replaced with continuous corn. Currently, approximately 20 percent of all acres in the Midwest Corn Belt are in continuous corn. This number is likely to increase in the future as demand for corn grows. This project will use data collected from long-term (20 years) established rotation experiments and by performing a set of new experiments to compare no rotation (continuous corn), two-crop rotations (corn-soybean), and extended rotations including a third crop (e.g., winter wheat or oats) or another crop harvested multiple years (i.e., alfalfa).

Three or more crops in rotation found to benefit all the crops in the extended rotation

"A corn-soybean rotation certainly works, but our data shows whenever you have three or more crops in rotation it benefits all the crops in that rotation," says Joe Lauer, a professor of agronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a principal investigator on the Sustainable Corn Project.

Rotation and Tillage – Lauer

Joe Lauer, a corn extension agronomist at the University of Wisconsin, discusses the effects and impacts rotation and tillage practices can have on agriculture. This presentation was made at the 2014 Resilient Agriculture National Conference, hosted by CSCAP and 25x’25. Presentation Slides


Additional Resources:

Strock, J., & Dalzell, B. "Understanding Water Needs of Diverse, Multi-year Crop Rotations." Resilient Agriculture. Aug. 2014: 18-19. Print.





We're scientists and farmers working together to create a suite of practices for corn-based systems that:

  • are resilient in times of drought
  • reduce soil and nutrient losses under saturated soil conditions
  • reduce farm field nitrogen losses
  • retain carbon in the soil
  • ensure crop and soil productivity

Sustainable Corn BLOG

Farmers and scientists in the Corn Belt discussing cover crops, weather, tillage, drainage water managment and much more.


Sustainable Corn YouTube Channel


SUSTAINABLECORN.ORG | Website Administrator
This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and
Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2011-68002-30190
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this website are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.