Increasing Cropping System Diversity Balances Productivity, Profitability and Environmental Health
One of the key challenges of the 21st century is developing ways of producing sufficient amounts of food while protecting both environmental quality and the economic well-being of rural communities. Over the last half century, conventional approaches to crop production have relied heavily on manufactured fertilizers and pesticides to increase yields, but they have also degraded water quality and posed threats to human health and wildlife. Consequently, attention is now being directed toward the development of crop production systems with improved resource use efficiencies and more benign effects on the environment. Less attention has been paid to developing better methods of pest management, especially for weeds. Here we explore the potential benefits of diversifying cropping systems as a means of controlling weed population dynamics while simultaneously enhancing other desirable agroecosystem processes. We focus on crop rotation, an approach to cropping system diversification whereby different species are placed in the same field at different times.