Bowles, T. M., M. Mooshammer, Y. Socolar, F. Calderón, M. A. Cavigelli, S. W. Culman, W. Deen, C. F. Drury, A. Garcia y Garcia, A. C. Gaudin, W. S. Harkrom, R. M. Lehman, S. L. Osborne, G. P. Robertson, J. Salerno, M. R. Schmer, J. Strock, and A. S. Grandy. 2020. Long-term evidence shows that crop rotation diversification increases agricultural resilience to adverse growing conditions in North America. One Earth 2:284-293.
A grand challenge facing humanity is how to produce food for a growing population in the face of a changing climate and environmental degradation. Though empirical evidence remains sparse, management strategies that increase environmental sustainability, like increasing agroecosystem diversity through crop rotations, may also increase resilience to weather extremes without sacrificing yields. We used multilevel regression analyses of long-term crop yield datasets across a continental precipitation gradient to assess how temporal crop diversification affects maize yields in intensively managed grain systems. More diverse crop rotations increased maize yields over time and across all growing conditions (28.1% on average), including in favorable weather conditions (22.6%). Notably, more diverse rotations also showed positive effects on yield under unfavorable weather conditions, with yield losses reduced by 14.0 to 89.9% in drought years. Systems approaches to environmental sustainability and yield resilience like crop rotation diversification are a central component of risk reduction strategies and should inform enabling policies.
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