The term cropping system refers to the crops and crop sequences and the management techniques used on a particular field over a period of years. Long-term cropping systems research projects generally involve a team of scientists of different disciplines working together to answer questions and solve problems. Dryland cropping is practiced in many diverse agro-climates in the Inland Pacific Northwest where average precipitation ranges from 6 to 26 inches per year.
Cropping System Definitions
The term cropping system refers to the crops and crop sequences and the management techniques used on a particular field over a period of years. This term is not a new one, but it has been used more often in recent years in discussions about sustainability of our agricultural production systems. Several other terms have also been used during these discussions:
Allelopathy: is the release of a chemical substance by one plant species that inhibits the growth of another species. It has been proven or is suspected to cause yield reductions when one crop follows another of the same family—for example, when corn follows wheat. Technically, damage to a crop from following itself (such as corn following corn) is referred to as autotoxicity. In many cases the actual cause of such yield reduction is not well understood, but it is generally thought that the breakdown of crop residue can release chemicals that inhibit the growth of the next crop. So keeping old-crop residue away from new-crop roots and seedlings should help to minimize such damage.
Double-cropping :(also known as sequential cropping) is the practice of planting a second crop immediately following the harvest of a first crop, thus harvesting two crops from the same field in one year. This is a case of multiple cropping, which requires a season long enough and crops that mature quickly enough to allow two harvests in one year.
Intercropping: is the presence of two or more crops in the same field at the same time, planted in an arrangement that results in the crops competing with one another.
Monocropping, or monoculture, refers to the presence of a single crop in a field. This term is often used to refer to growing the same crop year after year in the same field; this practice is better described as continuous cropping, or continuous monocropping.
Relay intercropping is a technique in which different crops are planted at different times in the same field, and both (or all) crops spend at least part of their season growing together in the field. An example would be dropping cover-crop seed into a soybean crop before it is mature.
Strip cropping is the presence of two or more crops in the same field, planted in strips such that most plant competition is within each crop rather than between crops. This practice has elements of both intercropping and monocropping, with the width of the strips determining the degree of each.