Ways wheat can boost crop rotation

Gleaming golden small grain fields historically punctuated the grassy green pastures of northeastern South Dakota’s rolling hills and prairie.

“We had lots of wheat and barley and very little soybeans and corn,” says Dan Nigg, who farms where he grew up near Sisseton, South Dakota.

Most pasture remains. Cropland, though, now mimics a mini Iowa, with corn and soybean acres eclipsing those of small grains. From 2011 to 2012, South Dakota corn and soybean acreage increased 15% and 10%, respectively. Meanwhile, winter wheat and spring wheat acreage dropped 18% and 12%, respectively, says Ruth Beck, South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension field specialist for agronomy.

Plunging row-crop prices coinciding with barely budging input prices may be changing that mix, though. These days, wheat has a bottom-line benefit.

“Wheat can be (net return) competitive with soybeans and corn,” says Nigg.

Wheat production isn’t limited to the Upper Midwest, either. Allen Henry, who farms near Indianola in south-central Iowa, has grown winter wheat the last several years for grain and wheat straw.

“It is just another way for me to diversify,” he says. “It breaks up my weed and bug cycles, and it helps make the tilth of my ground a little better.”

Not all is rosy with wheat. Winterkill is a huge hazard for winter wheat if bone-chilling temperatures result and sufficient snowfall does not occur.  Wet spring weather can also nix spring wheat planting.

“I abandoned my (spring) wheat in 2013 just for the simple fact it was May 10, and it just got too late,” says Nigg.

Overall, though, wheat has been a hit in Nigg’s rotation. Below are seven reasons why wheat may have bottom-line benefits in your rotation, too.

1. Wheat can better yields of your other crops.

Data from a 2013 Dakota Lakes Research Farm rotational study at Pierre, South Dakota, showed the impact rotational diversity has on corn yields.

  • Continuous corn: 203 bushel per acre.
  • Corn-soybean: 217 bushels per acre.
  • Corn-corn-soybean-wheat-soybean: 235 bushels per acre.

A 12-year University of Illinois (U of I) study found adding wheat to a corn-soybean rotation boosted corn yields by about 10 bushels per acre and soybean yields by 3 to 5 bushels per acre, says Emerson Nafziger a U of I Extension agronomist.

Bottom-line benefit: Including wheat in a rotation can spark single-digit per acre yield increases in soybeans and double-digit increases in corn.

2. Including wheat in a corn-soybean mix can lower costs.
When Dwayne Beck managed the now defunct James Valley Research Center near Redfield, South Dakota, he helped northeastern South Dakota farmers develop diverse corn-soybean-wheat-cover crop rotations.

“Basically, the production costs for these are 50% of what a corn and soybean rotation would be,” says Beck, who now manages the Dakota Lakes Research Farm.“So essentially, they can grow wheat for free.”

Bottom-line benefit:
Diversifying a corn-soybean rotation with wheat can slice rotational production costs by one half.

3. Wheat can spark profitability…but not across the board.

In 2011, Thomas Zimmerman, a North Dakota State University graduate student, analyzed 16 rotations at the Conservation Cropping Systems Project (CCSP) near Forman, North Dakota.
The winner? A spring wheat/winter wheat/corn/soybean/corn/soybean rotation. Its net return blitzed that of a corn-soybean rotation by $20.20 per acre.

That’s not the case all over, though. On prime farmland, the yield boost incurred by including wheat in a rotation doesn’t cover the loss incurred by forgoing a row crop, says Nafziger.

“Unless wheat is double-cropped or if additional income is derived from straw (on high-yield farmland), wheat doesn’t compete well as a cash crop with corn and soybean,” says Nafziger.

Bottom-line benefit: Yield increases can spark profitability in some areas. That may not be the case, though, in prime farmland areas like central Illinois.

4. Wheat can make your corn-soybean soil healthier.
The platy soil structure incurred by a corn-soybean rotation slices soil water infiltration and strangles root uptake of nutrients and water, says Jason Miller, an NRCS agronomist based in Pierre, South Dakota.

A field in a rotational study at the Dakota Lakes Research Farm had been rotated between corn and soybeans for 20 years. After wheat followed by a cover crop cracked the rotation, irregular soil blocks replaced the soil plates. This switch increased water infiltration and enabled roots to access more nutrients and water.

“After one year, the wheat and cover crop dramatically changed the soil structure,” says Miller. “The difference was unbelievable.”

Bottom-line benefit: Curbing compaction through steps like these can erase the 5% to 10% yield decrease that compaction typically inflicts, says Randall Reeder, retired Ohio State University Extension agricultural engineer.

5. A diverse rotation helps manage weeds.

“You couldn’t sit at a blackboard and draw up a production system more favorable to weeds than a corn-soybean rotation,” says Bob Hartzler, Iowa State University (ISU) Extension weed specialist. “They are two summer crops with nearly identical planting and harvesting dates. In many cases, we use the same control tactics in both crops. It’s simple for weeds to beat that system.”

A multiyear ISU study examined a corn-soybean rotation and showed that inclusion of these crops with small grain and legumes in three- and four-year rotations effectively suppressed weeds.

“This was despite backing off herbicides in the three- and four-year systems,” says Matt Liebman, an ISU agronomist.

Bottom-line benefit: Diverse rotations can slice weed pressure and controlcosts. Per acre rotational herbicide costs in the ISU study were the following:

  • Corn-soybeans: $28.18.
  • Corn-soybean-oats/red clover: $18.17
  • Corn-soybeans-oats/alfalfa-alfalfa: $14.09

6. A rotation-cover crop combo can boost marginal farmland soil quality. 
“When land rents started going up in my area, it got harder to expand,” says Nigg. “I have marginal ground that is not good corn ground. I got to thinking that I could take this marginal ground and push it with wheat.”

By itself, wheat can help boost yields and profits by increasing soil tilth and water infiltration. Cover crops double soil health efforts and also have perks like breaking compaction and adding soil carbon to boost organic matter. Even on sandy soils, Nigg’s organic matter tallies an Iowa-like 5%.

Bottom-line benefit: “A 1% increase in organic matter will boost water infiltration 0.4 inches,” says NRCS’s Miller.  “A 1% increase is a $24-per-acre value in increased nutrients and infiltration.”

7. Diversifying a rotation can reduce weather risk.

The 2012 drought didn’t fully form in most of South Dakota until late into the wheat-growing season. Since wheat uses little water at this time, above-average South Dakota wheat yields occurred in a drought year,  says SDSU’s Beck.

Not so with corn. At tasseling, corn can consume up to .33 inches of rain daily. In 2012, the steadily accelerating drought hit corn during this peak time and pummeled yields.

Bottom-line benefit: Spiking a row-crop rotation with wheat can lessen weather risk of a corn-heavy rotation. Severe stress can slice corn yields 8% per day during silking and pollen shed, says Bob Nielsen, Purdue Extension agronomist.

(Source – http://www.agriculture.com/crops/wheat/production/7-ways-wheat-c-boost-crop-rotation_145-ar51230)

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Soil erosion and conservation

Several mechanical methods are used to control and prevent erosion.


Flumes are artificial channels that control the flow of water down a slope and release it into an area where its impact is reduced. They are often placed at the head of gullies to prevent the backward erosion of the headwall by water flowing over the top.


Debris dams are sited in the floor of gullies. Built of wood planks or tyres, they trap material moving down the gully floor. Often this technique is used in conjunction with pair planting.

Detention dams are small dams on farms or sites such as ephemeral waterways which, under heavy rainfall, can create erosion within the waterway. The dams are designed with a wide spillway that allows some storage of water, and in flood conditions allows a steady and slow release of water over the spillway.


Where an earthflow has occurred, land smoothing is used to stabilise the soil. Bulldozers smooth the surface of the earthflow, so water will run off rather than pond and saturate the unstable soil. This technique is expensive.

Infilling can be used where tunnel gully erosion has occurred. The gully edges are pushed into the centre, which is compacted. The contour of the land is then shaped to spread run-off. This method was used successfully in the early 1960s at Wither Hills near Blenheim.


Pasture furrows were introduced in the 1950s, notably in Canterbury’s cultivated downlands, to control run-off and prevent sheet and rill erosion.

In the pasture phase of crop rotation, small channels are ploughed about 10 metres apart across the slope. These divert run-off to grassed waterways, which then feed into natural streams and rivers.

A variant of pasture furrows are graded banks, which are much wider and further apart. These were used in Northland.

Cultivation techniques

Conservation tillage is where crop-growing soils are left, after harvest, covered in crop residues. This acts as a mulch, protecting the soil from wind erosion and raindrop impact.

With contour cultivation, all cultivation is done across the slope. This creates a series of mini-barriers to the downward flow of water.

Direct drilling is a method where pasture seeds or crops are drilled straight into the soil, under pasture. The advantage is that being unploughed, the soil is not vulnerable to erosion.

(Source – http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/soil-erosion-and-conservation/page-8)

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 The increase in ionized radiation and pollution of our environment with herbicides, pesticides, heavy metal compounds, and other toxic mutagenic and carcinogenic substances presents a real danger to living organisms today and their progeny in the future.  Considering the soil pollution by water soluble heavy metal salts in the industrial regions and the long-term excessive use of mineral fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides in agricultural regions, the crops, particularly vegetables and root-crops, accumulate excess amounts of harmful admixtures.  That is why the creation of pure agricultural technologies is one of the most important tasks of our time.

The protective effect of humates develop in the following directions:

  1. Protection from radioactive irradiation and its consequences.

  2. Protection from harmful admixtures in the atmosphere, soil, and subsoil waters in technogenic districts.

  3. Protection from the consequences of the pesticides and other chemicals used in agriculture.

  4. Protection from unfavorable environmental factors in zones of risky agriculture.

  5. Decrease in content of the nitrates that form when nitrogen fertilizer is used.

     Long-term research showed that humic substances bond many organic and non-organic substances into poorly soluble or insoluble compounds, which prevents their penetration from soil into subsoil waters and growing plants.  It reduces the toxic effect of residual amounts of herbicides, soil polluting radio nuclides, heavy metals, and other harmful substances, as well as radiation and chemical contamination.  Tests showed that even after 50% affection of the plant, its vital functions are completely restored due to the humic preparation effect.  This unique quality of humates is particularly important for the regions in Russia, Byelorussia, and Ukraine that are contiguous to the Chernobyl region.   In the future it could be used to gradually restore contaminated land.

     Modern floriculture is not possible without the use of different chemicals necessary to fight weed, pest, and plant disease.  It is widely known, however, that the use of those chemicals causes a number of negative effects due to their accumulation in the soil.  The infamous fact of DDT accumulation led to its complete banning.  However, DDT appearance still occasionally occurs in crops.  Science proved that sodium humate reduces the damaging effect of the pesticide atrazine by increasing its decomposition, which leads to an increase in the crop capacity of barley.

     The use of humates in zones of risky agriculture is particularly important.  Unfortunately, most territories of Russia can be considered risky.  In the south, the humates help to fight the effect of droughts, since it has been established that the humate treatment of plants ensures their drought resistance.  In Siberia and in the north of Russia, humate treatment can save the plants from late frosts.  In the 1960s, a corn crop was saved by colleagues of Irkutsk university, after an unexpected frost.  In 1996, in the Angarsk region, a strong frost happened on the 19th of June.  The parts of the potato fields that had been treated with the humates were the only undamaged parts.

     Watering soil with a 0.01% humate solution substantially increases the biological activity of the soil and boosts plants resistance against the harmful waste in technogenic zones of chemical and coking industries.  In 1998, in Buryatia, wide scale tests were carried out in treating of saline soils with humates.  The results showed a 214% increase in crops of green herbage, in comparison with the control group.

     The ability of humates to create complexes and their high sorption activity are used to bond the ions of heavy metals in contaminated soil.  That is why increased amount of humates (up to 20-30 kg per hectare) should be used on contaminated soil to ensure the contact and create favorable conditions for forming of complexes.

Humates accelerate water-exchange processes and physiological processes in the cell and participate in oxidation processes at the cell level.  They are conducive to complete assimilation of mineral nutrients in the plant, particularly in abnormal cases, such as saline soils, drought, and other unfavorable environmental factors. 

     An important quality of humates is their ability to decrease the level of nitrate nitrogen in produce.  It was proven by tests on a variety of crops (oats, corn, potatoes, root-crops, lettuce, cucumbers) that humate use decreases the nitrate content by 50% on average.  At the Dnepropetrovsk agricultural institute, field tests were carried out on chernozem soils.  Two crop cultures were tested – corn and barley (as second in the crop rotation).  The herbicide atrazine (4 kg per hectare) was used on the corn.  The results showed that atrazine reduced the growth of weeds by 80% and increased the crop capacity of the corn by 19%-20%.  However, the residual amounts of  the herbicide reduced the crop capacity in barley, which was sown after the corn in crop rotation, by 16%.  The use of sodium humate considerably changed the situation.  It stimulated corn growth and increased the crop capacity by an additional 10%, while the nitrates content (NO3) in the corn of honey and pearl ripeness decreased from 280.1 mg/kg to 199.7 mg/kg in laboratory tests and to 707 mg/kg in field tests.  Barley grown after the corn was noted to improve its germination, growth, and mass gaining, while containing less atrazine and more chlorophyll in the leaves.  The crop capacity of the barley increased by 5.2 centner per hectare, with a total crop capacity reaching 30.9 centner per hectare.  It was also noted that the atrazine content in the final produce decreased by 52%-71%, which made it an ecologically pure produce.

Thus, humic preparations are the reliable protection for plants and crops against harmful admixtures from our environment (soil, subsoil waters, rain-water, and the atmosphere), which is more polluted each day.  They also protect crops from unfavorable environmental factors (drought, ionizing radiation, etc.).

(Source – http://www.teravita.com/Humates/Chapter5.htm)

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Open System for Organic Agriculture Administration

Efforts to increase the availability of sustainable development in natural resources worldwide are  consecutive and proliferated through the last decades. Sectors and divisions of many scientific  networks are working simultaneously in separate schemas or in joined multitudinous projects and  international co-operations. Organic Agriculture, as a later evolution of farming systems, was  derived from trying to overcome the accumulative environmental and socioeconomic problems of  industrialized communities and shows rapid development during the last decades. Its products  day to day gain increased part of consumer preferences while product prices are rather higher  than those of the traditional agriculture. Governments all over the world try to reduce the  environmental effects of the industrialized agriculture, overproduction and environmental  pollution, encouraging those who want to place their fields among others that follow the rules  of organic agriculture. All the above make this new trend very attractive and promising.

But the rules in organic agriculture are very restrictive. The intensive pattern of cultivation  worldwide and the abuse of chemical inputs, affected the environment, therefore any field  expected to be cultivated under the rules of organic agriculture has to follow certain steps but  also be ‘protected’ from the surrounding plots controlling at the same time different kind of unexpected influx (e.g., air contamination from nearby insecticides’ use, water pollution of  irrigation system from an adjacent plot that has used fertilizers, etc). It is obvious that the gap  between wish and theory and the implementation of organic agriculture is enormous.

Obviously one can overcome this gap using a sophisticated complex system. Such a system  can be based on a powerful GIS and the use of widely approved mobile instruments for  precise positioning and wireless communication. In such a system data-flow could be an  “easy” aspect, providing any information needed for the verification of organic product cycle  at any time, any site. 


As the world’s population has increased from 1.6 billion at the beginning of the 20th century  to over 6.2 billion just before the year 2004, economic growth, industrialization and the demand for agricultural products caused a sequence of unfortunate results. This aggregation of disturbances moved along with the reduction in availability and deterioration of maximum yield results from finite ranges of plots on earth’s surface. Overuse of agrochemical products (insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers, etc.), reduction and destruction of natural resources, decrease of biodiversity, reduction of water quality, threat over rare natural landscapes and wild species and an overall environmental degradation, appeared almost daily in news worldwide especially over the last two decades. The universal widespread of this situation has raised worldwide awareness of the need for an environmentally sustainable economic development. (WCED, 1987) In the beginning of year 2004, EU Commission for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries declared three major issues towards a European Action Plan on organic food and farming that may be crucial for the future of organic agriculture:

− the market, (promotion and distribution)

− the role of public support and,

− the standards of organic farming.

It is obvious that in general the market has a positive reaction if there is a prospect of considerable gain. Thus we can say that the other two will define the future. The strict rules of organic agriculture have to be ensured and all the products have to be easily recognisable.Also a guarantee about the quality and the origin of any product has to be established.

Organic Farming is derived as a sophisticated sector of the evolution of farming implementation techniques aiming through restrictions and cultivated strategies to achieve a balanced production process with maximum socioeconomic results (better product prices, availability of surrounding activities as ecotourism, family employment in low populated villages, acknowledge of natures’ and rural environments’ principles and needs, etc.). Meanwhile, the combination of latest technological advances, skills, innovations and the decline of computer and associate software expenses were transforming the market place of geographic data. Now, more than ever before, common people, farmers, private enterprises, local authorities, students, researchers, experts from different scientific fields, and a lot more could become an important asset supporting the development of innovations of Informatics in Geospatial Analysis. With the use of Geographic Information Systems and Internet applications various data can be examined visually on maps and analyzed through geospatial tools and applications of the software packages. Much recent attention and efforts has been focused on developing GIS functionality in the Worldwide Web and governmental or private intranets. The new applicable framework, called WebGIS, is surrounded with a lot of challenges and is developed rapidly changing from day to day the view of contemporary GIS workstations.

Precision Organic Agriculture through GIS fulfils the demands of design strategies and managerial activities in a continuing process. By implementing this combination, certified methods for defining the best policies, monitoring the results and the sustainability of the framework, and generating a constructive dialogue for future improvement on environmental improvement and development could be developed.


Organic Agriculture is derived from other organized smaller natural frameworks, publicly known as ecosystems which are complex, self-adaptive units that evolve through time and natural mechanisms and change in concern with external biogeochemical and natural forces.

Managing ecosystems should have been focused on multiplication of the contemporary needs and future perspectives to ameliorate sustainable development. Instead, political, economic and social agendas and directives, as well as scientific objectives resulted in few decades such an enormous amount of global environmental problems like never before in the history of mankind. Valuable time was spent over the past 75 years by research, which was trying to search how ecosystems regulate themselves, for example how they adjust to atmospheric, geologic, human activities and abuse (Morain, 1999).

Organic Agriculture flourished over the last decade particularly after 1993 where the first act of Regulation 2092/91 of European Union was enforced. Until then, and unfortunately, afterwards, worldwide environmental disasters ( e.g., the Chernobyl accident of the nuclear reactor in April 1986), accumulative environmental pollution and its results (acid rain, ozone’s hole over the Poles, Greenhouse effect, etc.) and even lately the problems that occurred by the use of dioxins and the propagation of the disease of “mad cows”, increase in public opinion the relation between natures’ disturbances and the continuing abuse of intensive methods of several industrialized chains of productions. Among them, conventional agricultural intensive production with the need of heavy machinery, enormous needs of energy consumptions and even larger thirst for agrochemical influxes the last fifty years, created environmental disturbances for the future generations. Therefore, IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) constituted a number of principles that, enabling the implementation of Organic Farming’s cultivation methods, techniques and restrictions worldwide.

Principles of Organic Agriculture Organic Agriculture:  (Source: IFOAM)

  •  aims on best soil fertility based in natural processes,
  •  uses biological methods against insects, diseases, weeds,
  • practices crop rotation and co-cultivation of plants
  • uses “closed circle” methods of production where the residues from former cultivations or other recyclable influx from other sources are not thrown away, but they are incorporated, through recycling procedures, back in the cultivation (use of manure, leaves, compost mixtures, etc.),
  • avoids heavy machinery because of soil’s damages and destruction of useful soil’s microorganisms,
  • avoids using chemicals,  avoids using supplemental and biochemical substances in animal nourishing,
  •  needs 3-5 years to transit a conventional cultivated field to a organic farming system following the restrictions of Council Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91,
  • underlies in inspections from authorities approved by the national authorities of Agriculture.

An appropriate organic plot should be considered as the landscape where ecological perspectives and conservations activities should be necessary for effective sustainable nature resource management (Hobs, 1997). Considerable amounts of time and effort has been lost from oncoming organic farmers on finding the best locations for their plots. Spatial restrictions for placing an organic farm require further elaboration of variables that are affecting cultivation or even a unique plant, such as:

− Ground-climatic variables (e.g., ground texture, ph, slope, land fertility, history of former yields, existence of organic matter, rain frequency, water supply, air temperature levels, leachability, etc.),

− Adjacency with other vegetative species (plants, trees, forests) for propagation reasons or non-organic cultivations for better controlling movements through air streams or erosion streams (superficial or in the ground) of agrochemical wastes,

− Availability of organic fertilization source from neighbored agricultural exploitations,

− Quality of accessing road network for agricultural (better monitoring) and marketing (aggregated perspectives of product distribution to nearby or broadened market area) reasons.

A GIS is consisted of computerized tools and applications that are used to organize and display geo-information. Additionally it enables spatial and non-spatial analysis and correlation of geo-objects for alternative management elaborations and decision making procedures. This gives the ability to GIS users or organic farm-managers to conceive and implement alternative strategies in agricultural production and cultivation methodology.


The development of first concepts and ideas of a precision organic farming system in a microregion, demands a regional landscape qualitative and recovery master plan with thorough and comprehensive description of the territory (land-use, emission sources, land cover, microclimatic factors, market needs and other essential variables. Essential components on a successful and prospective organic GIS-based system should be:

− The time-schedule and task specification of the problems and needs assessments that the design-strategy is intended to solve and manage,

− Integrated monitoring of high risks for the cultivation (insects, diseases, water quality, water supply, weather disturbances (wind, temperature, rain, snow, etc.),

− Supply of organic fertilization because additional needs from plants in certain periods of cultivation could be not managed with fast implemented agrochemicals; instead they need natural fermentations and weather conditions to break down elements of additional fertilization,

− High level of communication capabilities with authorized organizations for better management of the cultivation and geodata manipulation, aiming on better promotional and economical results,

− Increased awareness of the sustainability of the surrounding environment (flora and fauna), enabling motivation for a healthy coexistence. For example, the conservation of nearby natural resources such as rare trees, small bushes and small streams, give nest places and water supply capabilities to birds and animals that help organic plants to deal with insect populations controls and monitoring of other plant enemies,

− Continual data capture about land variables, use of satellite images, georeference  sampling proccedures and spatial modelling of existed or former geospatial historical plot’s data could be used to establish a rational model which will enable experts and organic farmers to transform the data into supportive decision applications.

The combination and modeling of all necessary variables through any kind of methodological approach, could be achieved through GIS expressing the geographical sectors of land parcels either as a pattern of vector data, or as a pattern of raster data (Kalabokidis et al., 2000). Additionally, we could allocate the cultivation or the combination of cultivations1 and their units (plants, trees, etc.) so as to be confronted in relation with their location inside the field, as well as with the neighbored landscape. For this purpose the most essential tool would be a GPS (Global Positioning System) device with high standards of accuracy. Several statistical approaches and extensions have been developed for the elaboration of spatial variables through geostatistical analysis. The usefulness of these thematic maps lies upon the tracing and localization of spatial variability in the plot during the cultivated period, enabling the farmer to implement the proper interferences for better management and future orientation of the farm and of the surrounding area.

Specific geodata receivers and sensors inside the plot, in the neighbored area, as well as images from satellites, could establish a “temporal umbrella” of data sources of our farm which would submit in tracing of temporal variability factors in our field. The agricultural management framework that takes into account the spatial or temporal variability of different parameters in the farm is called Precision Agriculture (Karydas, et al., 2002). The implementation of IFOAM’s principles in such an agricultural model should be called Precision Organic Agriculture (POA).


The development of appropriate analytical techniques and models in a variety of rapidly changing fields using as cutting edge GIS technology, is a high-demanding procedure. The linkages to different applications of spatial analysis and research and the ability to promote functional and integrated geodatabases is a time consuming, well prepared and carefully executed procedure which combines spatial analytic approaches from different scientific angles: geostatistics, spatial statistics, time-space modeling, mathematics, visualization techniques, remote sensing, mathematics, geocomputational algorithms and software, social, physical and environmental sciences.

An approach of a Precision Organic Farming model, which uses as a structure basis the Precision Agriculture wheel (McBratney et al., 1999) and the introduction of organic practices for the sustainable development with the elaboration of any historical data about the plot. The basic components are:

− Spatial referencing: Gathering data on the pattern of variation in crop and soil parameters across a field. This requires an accurate knowledge of allocation of samples and the GPS network.

− Crop & soil monitoring: Influential factors effecting crop yield, must be monitored at a thoroughly. Measuring soil factors such as electric conductivity, pH etc., with sensors enabling real-time analysis in the field is under research worldwide with focusing on automation of results. Aerial or satellite photography in conjunction with crop scouting is becoming more available nowadays and helps greatly for maximizing data acquisition for the crop.

− Spatial prediction & mapping: The production of a map with thematic layers of variation in soil, crop or disease factors that represents an entire field it is necessary to estimate values for unsampled locations.

− Decision support: The degree of spatial variability found in a field with integrated data elaboration and quality of geodata inputs will determine, whether unique treatment is warranted in certain parts. Correlation analysis or other statistical approaches can be used to formulate agronomically suitable treatment strategies.

− Differential action: To deal with spatial variability, operations such as use of organic-“friendly”-fertilizers, water application, sowing rate, insect control with biological practices, etc. may be varied in real-time across a field. A treatment map can be constructed to guide rate control mechanisms in the field.

GIS systems from their beginning about than 30 years ago, step by step, started to progress from small applications of private companies’ needs to high demanding governmental applications. At the beginning, the significance and capabilities of GIS were focusing on digitizing data; today, we’ve reached the last period of GIS’s evolution of data sharing. Nowadays restrictions and difficulties are not upon the hardware constraints but they are on data dissemination. Several initiatives have been undertaken in order to provide basic standard protocols for overcoming these problem. The need of organisational and institutional cooperation and establishment of international agreement framework becomes even more important. Governments, scientific laboratories, local authorities, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), private companies, international organizations, scientific societies and other scientific communities need to find substantial effort to broaden their horizons through horizontal or vertical standards of cooperation.

Any GIS laboratory specialized in monitoring a specific field could give additional knowledge to a coherent laboratory which focus to an other field in the same area. As a result, especially in governmental level, each agency performs its own analysis on its own areas, and with minimal effort cross-agency interactions could increase the efficiency of projects that help the framework of the society.

Such a data-sharing framework was not capable in earlier years, where technological evolution was trying specific restrictions of earlier operational computerised disabilities. Hardly managed and high demanding knowledge in programming applications, unfriendly scheme of computer operating systems over large and expensive programs, and restricted knowledge on Internet applications now belong to the past. User friendly computer operation systems, high storage capacity, fast CPUs (Central Processing Units) sound overwhelming even in relation with PCs before ten years. Powerful notebooks, flexible and strong PDAs, super-computers of enormous capabilities in data storage, true-colour high resolution monitors and other supplementary portable or stable devices, created an outburst in the applications of Information Technology (IT). Additionally, the expansion of Internet in the ‘90s worldwide, contributed (and is still keeping on doing this) on redesigning specific applications for data mining procedures through WWW (World Wide Web), as well as for data exporting capabilities and maps distribution through Internet. The evolution in computer software derived new versions of even friendlier GIS packages.


The Internet as a system followed an explosive development during the past decade. The modern Internet functions are based on three principles (Castells, 2001):

 − Decentralized network structure where there is no single basic core that controls the whole system.

− Distributed computing power throughout many nodes of the network.

− Redundancy of control keys, functions and applications of the network to minimize risk of disruption during the service.

Internet is a network that connects local or regional computer networks (LAN or RAN) by using a set of communication protocols called TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol). Internet technology enables its users to get fast and easy access to a variety of resources and services, software, data archives, library catalogs, bulletin boards, directory services, etc. Among the most popular functions of the Internet is the World Wide Web (WWW). World Wide Web is very easy to navigate by using software called browser, which searches through internet to retrieve files, images, documents or other available data.

The important issue here is that the user does not need to know any software language but all it needs is a simple “click” with mouse over highlighted features called Hyperlinks, giving  increased expansion on growth of WWW globally.

GIS data related files (Remote Sensing data, GPS data, etc) can benefit from globalization of World Wide Web:

− An enormous amount of these data are already in PC-format.

− GIS users are already familiar by using software menus.

− Large files could be easily transmitted through Internet and FTPs and software about compression.

− The Web offers user interaction, so that a distant user can access, manipulate, and display geographic databases from a GIS server computer.

− It enables tutorials modules and access on educational articles.

− It enables access on latest achievements in research of GIS through on-line proceedings of seminars, conferences, etc.

− Through Open Source GIS, it enables latest implementations of GIS programming and data sharing by minimum cost.

− Finally through online viewers, it gives the capability of someone with minimum  knowledge on GIS to get geospatial information by imaging display. (Aber, 2003)

The importance of World Wide Web could become more crucial through wireless Internet access. For a GIS user who works on the street, or in our case, on the field of an organic farm and uses wireless access to the web, a GIS package through a portable device, data transmission is an important issue. This is more important especially if the data are temporalaffected (e.g., meteorological data). To overcome this problem, new data transmission methods need to be elaborated and used in web-based GIS systems to efficiently transmit spatial and temporal data and make them available over the web. Open Source GIS through Internet represents a cross-platform development environment for building spatially enabled functions through Internet applications. Combinations of freely available software through WWW (e.g., image creation, raster to vector, coordinates conversion, etc), with a  combination of programming tools available for development of GIS-based applications could provide standardized geodata access and analytical geostatistical tools with great diplay efficiency. Under this framework, several geospatial applications can be developed using existing spatial data that are available through regional initiatives without costing anything to the end user of this Open GIS System (Chakrabarti et al., 1999).


As the World Wide Web grew rapidly, sophisticated and specialized methods for seeking and organizing data information have been developed. Powerful search engines can be searched by key words or text phrases. New searching strategies are under development where web links are analyzed in combination with key words or phrases. This improves the effectiveness at seeking out authoritative sources on particular subjects. (Chakrabarti et al., 1999) Digital certification under international cooperatives and standards is fundamental for the development of organic agriculture in general and particularly in the market framework. Based on the theory of “dot per plot” different functional IDs could be created under password protected properties through algorithm modules. This way, a code bar (like those on products in supermarkets) could be related through GIS by farmers ID, locations ID, product ID, parcel ID and could follow this product from organic plot to market places giving all the details about it. Even more, authorization ID could be established this way for controlling even the farmer for cultivated methods undertaken in the field that are underlie EUs’ legislations and directives.

 In many cases the only way to create or maintain a separate “organic market” is through certification which provides several benefits (Raghavan, et al., 2002):

− Production planning is facilitated through indispensable documentation, schedules, cultivation methods and their development, data acquisition (e.g., lab results on soil’s pH, electrical conductivity, organic conciseness, etc.) and general production planning of the farm − Facilitation of marketing, extension and GIS analysis, while the data collected in the process of certification can be very useful as feedback, either for market planning, or for extension, research and further geospatial analysis.

− Certification can facilitate the introduction of special support schemes and management scenarios for organic agriculture, since it defines a group of producers to support.

− Certification tickets on products under international standards improve the image of organic agriculture in the society as a whole and increases the creditability of the organic movement.

Because a certification ticket is not recognised as a guarantee standard by itself, the level of control system in biological farming is quite low. In Greece, we are familiar with farmers having a bench by the road and using hand made tickets for their products, they call them “biologic” aiming in higher prices. Marketing opportunities for real organic farmers are eliminating while at the same time EU is trying to organize the directives for future expansion of organic agriculture.

Designing a functional infrastructure of a Geodatabase, fully related with Internet applications, requires accumulative levels of modular mainframes that could be imported, managed and distributed through WWW applications. The security and reliability of main GIS databases have to be established and confirmed through international standards (ISOs) and authorized GIS packages and users as well as in relation with governmental agencies. On the next level, additional analysis of geodata files and agricultural related information data should be combined and further elaborated. For the base level, fundamental GIS functions and geodata digitization should be implemented through internetic report applications (HTML reports, site-enabled GIS, wireless GIS applications, etc.). By this framework we could create a data base where using any ID number (farmer, product, field, etc) will be easy to recognize the history of any specific item involved in the life cycle of the organic farming through a data-related link over thematic maps by GIS viewers in the Internet. Although this framework is supported by multifunctional operations, we could distinguish sectors with homogeneity features:

In the first level of accessing an Open GIS Web system, the users should be first able to access the system through a Web browser. Free access should be available here for users who want to retrieve information, as well for users who want to login for further, more advanced queries. Fundamental GIS functions and geodata digitization should be implemented through internetic report applications (HTML reports, site-enabled GIS, wireless GIS applications, etc.). In this level public participation is enabled through importing additional geodata sets and any other kind of information resources (for example, latest weather information, market demands, research accomplishments, latest equipment facilities, personal extensions for GIS packages, etc.). The eligibility of these data should be applied after studying standards criteria in the next level by experts. Technological advances are also providing the tools needed to disseminate real-time data from their source to the web mapping services, available to the users through the Internet, portable devices, cellular telephones, etc. Basic field work for agricultural and Remote Sensing purposes, as well as data gathering for further statistical analysis should be implemented. By this level, the user could access the system through browsing commands or hyperlinks and through GIS queries. The significant point here is that the access is completely free for anyone who wants to retrieve information but classified to everyone who wants to submit any kind of information by the meaning that he has to give either a user’s ID or personal details.

The second level of accessing the system , is the authorized expert’s level. Here additional analysis of geodata files and agricultural related information data should be combined and further elaborated. Expert analysts from different scientific fields (GIS, economists, topographers, agriculturists, ecologists, biologists, research, etc.) are “bridging” the two levels of the system by using high sophisticated computer tools and GIS packages to facilitate data transportation through WWW channels between clients and servers. In the database file an identity code (IdC) or feature code (FC) is distributed, following the geodata file from main Geodatabase server to the final user. By this framework we could create a data base where using any ID number (farmer, product, field, etc) will be easy to recognize the history of any specific item involved in the life cycle of the organic farming through a data-related link over thematic maps by GIS viewers in the Internet. Additional demand on this level should be considered to be indispensable a background in Web functions with further support by Web experts for adequate Web System Administration.

In the third level of this Web based GIS system,  the success is relying on cooperation between authorized users only. This partnership should be established between geographic information data providers and data management authorities at a governmental, local or private level by authorized personnel. International collaboration could provide even better results in data quality and quantity but requires additional data storage capabilities and special awareness on data interoperability and standards interchange eligibility confirmed through international standards (ISOs). The security of personal details must be followed enriching this level with further authorization controlling tools. The significance of designing successful strategies for case management, using authorized, legitimate GIS packages should also be supported through Web applications and algorithms available for GIS-Web users on global based patterns .


The generally accepted purpose of organic agriculture is to meet the needs of the population and environment of the present while leaving equal or better opportunities for those of the future. Development of this sector is increasing through coordinated activities worldwide by international organizations (EU, UN, FAO, etc.) with long-lasting master plans. The dynamic factor of organic agriculture should not be kept without support. Political initiatives should stand side by side with organic farmers helping them to increase the quality of products and to multiply the number of producers and of the cultivated area.

The accumulative development of Organic Agriculture in Europe needs to be followed by additional development of management activities and strategies in national, binational and international level. Combined actions should be undertaken in fields like telecommunications standards, computer software and hardware development, research projects on agricultural management through GIS, additional educative sectors in universities.

The restrictions that accompany organic farming should help in establishing international agreements that will help to increase the number of qualitative standards, allowing better perspectives for developing future GIS based management strategies. The implementation of an Internet Based Precision Organic Agricultural System requires committed research from the agricultural industry and improvements in geoanalysis, agricultural and information technology. GIS based systems will become more essential as a tool to monitor agricultural exchanges between inputs and outputs and in relation with adjacent regions at an increasingly detailed level. The results will enhance the role of Geographic Information as a functional and economic necessity for any productive community.

(Source – http://www.fig.net/pub/athens/papers/ts20/ts20_5_ifadis_et_al.pdf)

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Crop Rotation on Vegetable Farms

Crop rotation is one of the most effective tools for managing pests and maintaining soil fertility, but there aren’t many specific recommendations for how to go about it. A common approach on vegetable farms is to rotate crops by families. Another strategy is to alternate vegetable crops with field or forage crops, such as small grains, alfalfa or clovers. Some growers try to rotate fields so they are in cash crops one year and cover crops the next year. On farms with limited land for rotation out of cash crops, sweet corn is a good crop to rotate with since it hosts very few insects or diseases that affect other vegetables.

Too many growers rotate their crops using the ‘seat of their pants’ technique, relying on memory and making decisions day by day when planting. To make the most of crop rotation you need detailed records of where crops were grown in the past as well as a written plan for how crops will be arranged in the future. Start by making a map of your farm and other fields you may use such as rented fields. Label the fields or sub-fields with names and acreage. Make photocopies of the map and at the end of each season fill one in and date it, noting any serious pest or soil problems in a field. Prior to the growing season, fill in a new map with your best guess as to where crops will go, depending on growing conditions, etc. Try to develop a plan that results in the most years possible between planting similar crops in a given location. As you plan, remember that rotation helps prevent some pests but not others. For insects that over-winter near the crop they infested, such as Colorado potato beetle, European corn borer, or flea beetle, it helps to plant host crops as far away as possible the next year.

Having a barrier such as a road or river between last year’s crop and this year’s can enhance the rotation effect. Rotation will not help prevent insect damage from pests that migrate into the area, such as potato leafhopper or corn earworm. For diseases that are soil-borne or over-winter in crop residues, rotating out of susceptible crops is a key to preventing infection, as in the case of Phytophthora blight, early blight, and many other diseases. However, host crops must be rotated far enough away to avoid infection through blowing or washing soil.

Equipment that moves soil from field to field can also reduce the benefit of rotation. For some diseases, such as clubroot of crucifers, susceptible weed hosts must be controlled if rotation is to be effective. As with insects, rotation cannot prevent airborne diseases that move in from other areas, such as downy mildew, nor can it prevent seed-borne diseases.

In addition to minimizing some pest pressure, rotating crops is also good for soil health because it leads to changes in tillage, rooting depth and nutrient removal. Rotation is also a way to maintain soil organic matter if plans include soil-improving cover crops, a practice that is critical to sustaining productivity over time. Always include winter cover crops in your rotation plans to minimize erosion and add some organic matter back to the soil. Whenever possible, also use summer cover crops for warm-season biomass production and weed suppression. In addition, to the extent possible, one should include one or two year-long green manure crops to ‘rest’ fields  from tillage for substantial periods of time while allowing extensive cover crop root growth to occur… <more>

(Source: Vern Grubinger, Vegetable and Berry Specialist, University of Vermont Extension –  http://www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/factsheets/Crop%20Rotation.pdf )

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