What is fallow in agriculture

There are different cultivation techniques in agriculture that can make production much more efficient. One of these techniques is crop rotation every so often and different fallow techniques, but what are these techniques all about? What modalities exist? If you are interested in this topic and want the best information, in the following article we will explain what is fallow in agriculture and its types .

What is fallow in agriculture: the meaning

The meaning of fallow is the rest between sowings and crops that is left on a surface or agricultural land. These rest periods are usually every two or three years so that the soil recovers its nutrients and can give the best fruits during the next sowing. It is also possible to organize a triennial cropping system , in which a winter crop is sown during the first part of the year, a spring crop in the second part and at the end of the fallow year. In the practice of fallow, the crops are rotated so as not to wear down the land excessively , which is the basis for achieving more efficient agricultural production.

The origins of the fallow

Fallow land and crop rotation emerged in the late Middle Ages , at a time when the European population had a growing demand for food and the land was not sufficient to produce such quantity of raw materials and of such quality. In this way, this system arose, which ensures that the land produces high quality raw materials thanks to the rotation of crops (it is not recommended to plant the same type of crops several times in a row) and to the biennial or triennial rest of those portions of Earth.

The current fallow techniques have been greatly improved with respect to that period and, in addition to letting them rest, the crops are also treated to recover the nutrients they had and that have been worn away during the sowing and cultivation processes. For this reason, fertilizers are also used to speed up the recovery process, weeds are eliminated, and crop pests and diseases are controlled.

What is fallow in agriculture and its types - The origins of fallow

Types of fallow in agriculture

In general, two types of fallow can be distinguished :

  • Short fallows: in this type of fallow, the land only spends one or two years before it is cultivated again, so that the land is not 100% regenerated.
  • Long fallows: in this type of fallow a long period of rest is contemplated between crops, with which the land is completely regenerated.

Among farmers it is also common to use the terms fallow of the year and time when the land is allowed to rest once a year or fallow for a third, if two years of rest per crop year are contemplated.

However, it is not only how long the land is allowed to rest that matters, but also how the fallow is applied . This is how it differs:

  • Herbaceous fallow: it is the fallow in which the land is completely abandoned during the rest period, that is, the land is not maintained during this time (formerly it was called stubble).
  • Tilled fallow : it is exactly the opposite of the herbaceous one, since the land is maintained during the rest period.

Another terminology used is that of seed fallow , when sown during this process. Legume species are normally planted as they enrich the soil. If nothing is sown, we speak of white fallow .

Currently, in most of the farms fallow is not practiced, since the objective is to obtain profits in a constant way regardless of the destruction of the soil. An exception is extensive agriculture , where fallow is practiced alongside crop rotation systems.

Crop rotation: measures

In order to achieve a more efficient agricultural production , it is not only necessary to practice the fallow technique, but also to apply other processes such as conserving soil moisture, correctly choosing the herbicides to apply and monitoring.

  • Conserve moisture : this is a fundamental process for the soil. It is especially important to conserve moisture in the first few inches of the soil, where the seed will be located. Carrying out an adequate control, between 50 and 60 millimeters of water can be retained.
  • Herbicide choice : to choose a good treatment, the climatic conditions, the distribution, abundance and composition of the weeds that grow, as well as the cycle of their growth and aggressiveness, must be taken into account.
  • Monitoring : it is necessary to keep a control of the crops and their growth on the ground, identifying and eliminating the weeds that develop.
What is fallow in agriculture and its types - Crop rotation: measures
What is fallow in agriculture

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