What is a fallow?

Crop Rotation | Cultivation | Weed and Insect Control | Harvesting


Farmers have almost always practiced some form of crop rotation, varying what is planted in a field from year to year to preserve the soil. A crop like the potato absorbs more nutrients from the ground than certain other crops, such as hay or grain. To prevent the land from becoming depleted, the farmer rotates the crop he plants in each of his fields, making certain that the demanding ones are not grown on the same parcel of land for several years running. Besides conserving soil nutrients, crop rotation is an effective means of combating weeds.

When farmers adhered to mixed farming practices, they used a longer crop cycle known as the ‘seven-year rotation’– a cycle which, despite its name, could last anywhere from four to eight years. Under this rotation, a year of potatoes would be followed by a year of grain, a clover crop, and then two years as hay. The field would then be put out to pasture for another one or two more seasons, and finally a root crop– such as potatoes or turnips– would be planted in the field again. There was an unwritten, widely respected rule that potatoes were not to be cultivated in the same field two years in a row.

However, as farms expanded in the twentieth century, crop rotations became more and more attenuated. While mixed farmers had another immediate use for the land where they grew potatoes last season, it is more difficult to convince farmers who specialize solely in potatoes to leave a field fallow for several years between plantings, especially when they have large commercial contracts to meet. Nevertheless, most commercial farmers do not discount the wisdom of the past, and maintain some system of crop rotation in the best interests of their land.


Believing that deep cultivation would ruin the land, traditional farmers paid close attention to the depth at which they were breaking the soil. Perhaps they need not have worried as much as they did; the spring-tooth harrows they used were light and only dug into the ground four to five inches. Since the ground was not loosened very deeply, the farmer could cultivate more often, ensuring that the land remained soft and able to retain moisture.


The farmer had a whole raft of different strategies for keeping weeds out of his well-tended fields. Early spring cultivation and early fall plowing exposed weed seedlings to sunlight and killed a significant portion of them. On other occasions, weeds were simply physically removed, perhaps the only surefire method of preventing their spread. The problem of couch grass was combated by plowing buckwheat over the affected field. Today, weeds are causing more difficulties than they ever have before, and many blame this problem on the increased use of fertilizers and soil degradation.

For early farmers, insect control was none too complicated. For instance, to rid their gardens of earwigs, they tried dousing them with dishwater. The Colorado Potato Beetle was undoubtedly the greatest insect threat for potato farmers. The first pesticide used to battle this beetle was called Paris Green, and farmers had to shake it on the leaves of their potato plants manually. Later, there appeared on the market a sprayer which consisted of a wooden cask on wheels, where the spraying pump was driven by a bicycle-style chain attached to the axle. The contraption sprayed faster or slower, depending on how fast the horses were pulling it or whether the field went downhill. Before potatoes are harvested, the potato plant must be killed; most farmers today use herbicides to assist in killing the tops. In the past, some farmers did not bother with killing the tops themselves, waiting instead for the heavy fall frosts to eventually do the job for them. But when DDT was introduced after World War II, the widespread use of chemicals quickly replaced traditional means of weed and insect control.


Early farmers cut their fields of grain using scythes and sickles. But the real job did not even begin until after the grain was cut. The most difficult task was ‘threshing,’ or separating the kernels of wheat from the chaff. At first, the grain would be threshed using hand-held flails, beaten on the wooden floor until all the wheat had fallen from the stalk. Later, a horse-driven machine was adopted, where a team rode on a treadmill to drive the threshing action. Early potato harvesting was done by hand, filling baskets that were left along the side of a row and picked up by a horse and cart. These methods of harvesting were extremely labour intensive; when potato diggers and combines arrived on the scene, few objections were heard from weary farm families.

Potatoes | Other Crop Varieties | Fertilization

Farming

Glossary:Fallow land

Fallow land is all arable land either included in the crop rotation system or maintained in good agricultural and environmental condition (GAEC), whether worked or not, but which will not be harvested for the duration of a crop year. The essential characteristic of fallow land is that it is left to recover, normally for the whole of a crop year.

On land lying fallow there shall be no agricultural production. Land lying fallow for more than 5 years for the purpose of fulfilling the ecological focus area shall remain arable land.

Fallow land may be:

  • bare land with no crops at all
  • land with spontaneous natural growth which may be used as feed or ploughed in
  • land sown exclusively for the production of green manure (green fallow)

Includes

  • arable land lying fallow for less than 5 years
  • arable land lying fallow for 5 years or more if for the purpose of fulfilling the ecological focus area

Excludes

  • successive crops
  • areas which were planted with permanent crops (e.g. vineyards), ploughed and left idle for one growing period waiting to be planted again with permanent crops (ARA)
  • permanent grassland no longer used for production purposes and eligible for financial support (J3000)
  • land taken out of production for more than 5 years which is maintained in good agricultural and environmental conditions (J3000)
  • areas the farmer declares that are put out of production (not only for resting), immediately from the first year of declaration (NUAA)
  • arable land taken out of production for more than 5 years that are not part of the land kept in good agricultural and environmental condition (NUAA)

Related concepts

  • Agricultural area (AA)
  • Arable land
  • Kitchen gardens
  • Permanent crops
  • Permanent grassland

Statistical data

  • Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics

Christian Articles Archive

Break Up Your Fallow Ground,
Your Unplowed Ground

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

As New Year’s Day approaches, two passages of Scripture challenge me to grow and change in the year to come. Both are spoken by Old Testament prophets to the people of Israel, who had become lazy, sloppy, and disobedient in their service of the Lord.

“Break up your unplowed ground
and do not sow among thorns.
Circumcise yourselves to the Lord,
circumcise your hearts,
you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem….” (Jeremiah 4:3-4a) “Sow for yourselves righteousness,
reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;
for it is time to seek the Lord,
until he comes
and showers righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12)

These passages have in common the phrase, “Break up your unplowed ground.” Just what does it mean for me and you to do that?

The phrase “unplowed ground” (NIV) or “fallow ground” (KJV, NRSV) is the Hebrew noun nîr, “the tillable, untilled, or fallow ground.”* It is land that could be productive, but for whatever reason has not been broken up, tilled, plowed, and prepared for planting. The prophets speaking the Word of the Lord are commanding the people to break up that land — spiritually! To plow the plowable land that they have. The prophets observe two things about fallow ground:

  1. Fallow ground is unusable, and
  2. Fallow ground is unused.

Let’s examine each and then see how we can go about breaking up our own fallow ground.

Fallow Ground Is Unusable

Unplowed ground won’t let a crop grow. It’s hard, preventing seeds from penetrating, germinating, and growing to maturity. When it’s time to put in the garden we get out the rototiller and turn the soil so that seeds are able to get into it and let their roots go down deep where moisture can be found.

In our first passage, Jeremiah tells his hearers:

“Break up your unplowed ground
and do not sow among thorns.” (Jeremiah 4:3)

In other words, they were sowing seed, but because they didn’t bother to prepare the soil and pull out the thorns, the seed had little effect. They were either lazy or stupid or both.

When you apply this agricultural analogy to spiritual things, what must be done so the soil is ready for planting God’s word?

Stumps must be removed

. As our forefathers moved West, they began by logging the trees on their land and rooting out the stumps. Have you ever cut down a tree and prepared its trunk for construction or firewood? It’s hard work. But removing stumps is even harder. You must dig down and cut each of the main roots with an axe, hatchet, or chainsaw. Then you attach a rope or chain to the stump and pull it out with a team of horses, oxen, truck, or winch. Finally, you pile all the stumps together and burn them as you clear the land.

What’s been growing in your heart previously? Hatred, bitterness, lust, greed, hedonism? These must be rooted out so a new crop can be planted. Grain doesn’t flourish under the shade of trees. They must be removed so the new crop can grow in the light.

Hardness must be broken up.

A plow or rototiller does the hard work of opening up the ground. Yes, you can dig it, one shovel at a time, but that’s too slow. You harness some cattle or horses — or horsepower. But many is the farmer without livestock who has harnessed himself up and pulled his own plow while his wife or son guided the plow. It takes energy to pull the plow, to guide the plow, to keep the furrows straight so the field can be plowed efficiently.

Where is the hardness in your heart? Where is the unbelief that is lurking in your soul? If you’ve been hurt in a relationship or by your father or mother, you may have sealed off an area of your life because it’s just too painful. But you need to let God break up those old resentments and heal those old hurts. He’ll pull the plow, but you must direct it toward those hard places in you that you know must be dealt with.

Sometimes we’ve been hardened by unbelief. You prayed that a grandparent wouldn’t die and your prayer wasn’t answered. You’ve been out of work or have chronic illness that has taken its toll on your faith. You’ve come to the conclusion that God doesn’t answer prayer — at least for you. That hardness of unbelief must be faced squarely and broken up if God is to plant something new and fruitful in your heart. Heartfelt repentance and confession is one way of plowing deep. When is the last time you were literally on your knees broken before the Lord?

Larger rocks must be dislodged.

Sometimes when you’re plowing you come upon some large, immovable rocks. If you’re serious about putting this field into production, it will require considerable digging, leverage, and horsepower to move the rocks from the field. Yes, it’s work, but you’ll be glad later that you took the time to do it right.

As you’ve plowed your heart, have you discovered some big rocks that need to be removed? Can’t budge them by yourself? Why don’t you talk with your pastor or a mature Christian about the problem? They will have had some experience moving rocks in their own life — every field has them. Instead of being judgmental, you’ll probably find they’ll be a lot of help.

Thorns must be gathered and burned

. When a field goes unplanted for several years it often become covered with thorns or other weeds. Here in California the weed of choice is star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis), an Old World thistle that is the scourge of the West. A combination of approaches will eventually conquer star thistle — pulling by hand, mowing when the flowers are only 10% blossomed, and irrigation. One of our neighbors was in her pasture several days last month pulling up star thistle by the roots. Now her pasture is pretty free of it, though she’ll need to watch out for newly germinated seeds for the next few years.

What kinds of thorns make the fields of our hearts unproductive? In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus’ uses thorns in a field to describe the human heart.

“The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). “The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature” (Luke 8:14).

Depending on your particular plot of land, those thorns may represent sexual temptations and lust, self-indulgence, pride, anger, selfishness, a love of entertainment and recreation, addictions, greed, and other thorns. Each of these chokes the Word. Each has a devastating effect on the crop that God wants to grow in you and me. We must root them out instead of molly-coddling them!

Fallow ground, unplowed, unprepared soil is unusable for any serious crop. God speaks to us that we must “break up” our fallow ground so that it is usable.

Fallow Ground Is Unused

But there’s another side to this. Fallow ground is unused ground. You may have many aspects of your life surrendered to God and under cultivation for a crop of righteousness and the fruit of the Spirit. But maybe there’s a plot of land — a part of your life — that you’ve never got around to cultivating, planting, and harvesting. It’s there but it’s wasted. Perhaps you’ve put off plowing this particular piece of land because it’s too difficult or too painful. Perhaps you can’t envision the fruit and grain that can grow there so you’ve never bothered.

But God is the great Vinedresser. If you’ll break up the additional fallow ground in your life, he will extend and enlarge your fruitfulness.

Looking forward over a New Year is a great time to rededicate the tracts of land that comprise our life and put them under cultivation for God. Now is the time to break up these unplowed fields and yield them to his growth. He calls you to this. Will you be obedient? Here is your command and your promise:

“Sow for yourselves righteousness,
reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;
for it is time to seek the Lord,
until he comes
and showers righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12)

*R. Laird Harris (editor), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Moody Press, 1980), #1360a.

Dear Presence seeker, do you long for financial breakthrough?

I imagine that most people reading this will probably say a heartfelt “yes.”

Financial breakthrough is one of the biggest areas of need that I hear about from our Presence-seeking community. It’s also one of the biggest areas of need I’ve seen in the Body of Christ in general … so if your answer to my question was “yes,” know that you are NOT alone!

But did you know you don’t have to wait for breakthrough?

It’s true. It’s in your hand right now to achieve and receive the breakthrough you need.

Why do I say that?

Because just yesterday, I was meditating on a passage from Proverbs when I found this other passage that really hit home with me. It’s Proverbs 13:23, and it says:

Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor, and for lack of justice there is waste” (Proverbs 13:23).

I believe this passage is key right now for everyone who needs financial breakthrough.

Here’s why:

According to Dictionary.com, the word “fallow” means:

Adjective
1. (of land) plowed and left unseeded for a season or more; uncultivated.
2. not in use; inactive: “My creative energies have lain fallow this year.”

Noun
3. land that has undergone plowing and harrowing and has been left unseeded for one or more growing seasons.

Verb (used with object)
4. to make (land) fallow for agricultural purposes.

Fallow ground is land you have that is uncultivated. It’s not being used; it’s inactive. This is a correct Biblical interpretation, as the Hebrew word here speaks also of land that has been tilled but not maintained or cultivated.

And the Bible clearly tells us here that if you’re doing without …

… if you’re poor …

… if you’re in need of provision …

… there is much food in the land you already have that hasn’t been cultivated.

Yes, that’s right. The provision you need is currently hiding in land you already have.

But the key is that it’s in land that’s fallow. Land that you’ve tilled, but not cultivated.

What could your fallow ground look like?

Maybe it’s:

  • A job you know you could apply for, but you haven’t applied.
  • A business idea you know you would like to work on, but you haven’t done anything about it.
  • An invention the Lord gave you, but you got derailed in the process of producing the product.
  • A blog you’d like to work on, but you let your website die before it even got off the ground.
  • A yard sale you wanted to hold, but you stopped working on it after you only carried a few items into your garage.

I could go on all day about potential things that could be your fallow ground or mine. Everybody’s fallow ground will look different. I even have fallow ground myself, so I’m preaching to myself here.

So what will we do about our fallow ground?

I would suggest that maybe we all need to do what I know I myself need to do:

  • Make a to-do list of little steps we need to take;
  • Work on at least one item on that list every day;
  • Set aside a consistent, specific time every day to work on the project/idea/business (in other words, keeping consistent business hours for yourself, even if that time is at 11 PM or 4 AM); and
  • Keep at it, day in and day out, as if your finances depended on it.

Because, according to Proverbs 13:23, the food you are looking for is hidden in your fallow ground.

And it’s fallow ground you already have. It’s “the fallow ground of the poor,” not “the fallow ground of the rich that the rich will hire the poor to work on.” No, your gold is not in somebody else’s territory. Your gold is in your own land … \

… even if you don’t think you have any land.

There is much food in the fallow ground of the poor. The key is to:

  • work that fallow ground;
  • cultivate it;
  • plant seed in it;
  • weed it–even when new weeds crop up every day;
  • hoe it;
  • fertilize it;
  • drive the animals out of it that want to eat your harvest; and, ultimately …
  • harvest it.

So what is your fallow ground? And what are you willing to do to cultivate it, so you won’t be hungry anymore?

We all have fallow ground. The Creator of Heaven and earth has given all of us ideas, dreams, and land that we need to cultivate so we can receive a harvest. All of us, including me and you.

The only question is: Will you set your face like flint and work your fallow ground this year?

If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you about working your fallow ground, please leave a comment below!

Social Studies

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What Is Fallow Ground: Are There Any Benefits Of Fallowing Soil

Farmers oftentimes mention fallow ground. As gardeners, most of us have probably heard this term and wondered, “what is fallow ground” and “is fallowing good for the garden.” In this article, we will answer these questions and provide information on the benefits of fallowing as well as how to fallow soil.

What is Fallowing?

Fallow ground, or fallow soil, is simply ground or soil which has been left unplanted for a period of time. In other words, fallow land is land left to rest and regenerate. A field, or several fields, are taken out of crop rotation for a specific period of time, usually one to five years, depending on crop.

Fallowing soil is a method of sustainable land management that has been used by farmers for centuries in regions of the Mediterranean, North Africa, Asia and other places. Recently, many crop producers in Canada and the Southwestern United States have been implementing land fallowing practices too.

Early in the history of fallowing, farmers usually did a two-field rotation, meaning they would divide their field into two halves. One half would be planted with crops, the other would lie fallow. The following year, farmers would plant crops in the fallow land, while letting the other half rest or fallow.

As agriculture boomed, crop fields grew in size and new equipment, tools and chemicals became available to farmers, so many crop producers abandoned the practice of soil fallowing. It can be a controversial subject in some circles because a field left unplanted does not turn a profit. However, new studies have shed much light on the benefits of fallowing crop fields and gardens.

Is Fallowing Good?

So, should you let a field or garden lie fallow? Yes. Crop fields or gardens can benefit from fallowing. Allowing the soil to have a specific rest period gives it to replenish nutrients which can be leached from certain plants or regular irrigation. It also saves money on fertilizers and irrigation.

In addition, fallowing the soil can cause potassium and phosphorus from deep below to rise toward the soil surface where it can be used by crops later. Other benefits of fallowing soil are that it raises levels of carbon, nitrogen and organic matter, improves moisture holding capacity, and increases beneficial microorganisms in the soil. Studies have shown that a field that has been allowed to lie fallow for just a year produces a higher crop yield when it is planted.

Fallowing can be done in large commercial crop fields or small home gardens. It can be used with nitrogen fixing cover crops, or the fallow land can be used to pasture livestock when at rest. If you have limited space or limited time, you do not have to leave the area unplanted for 1-5 years. Instead, you could rotate spring and fall crops in an area. For instance, one year only plant spring crops, then let the ground go fallow. The next year plant only fall crops.

Townshend’s rotation — like the ones George Washington and Thomas Jefferson used — included clover, wheat, other small grains and turnips, which made good winter food for sheep and cattle. My uncle grew no turnips, but he, like all his neighbors, was using his own version of the four-crop system, at the heart of which was alfalfa.

Getting to the four-crop rotation wasn’t easy, historically speaking. The Romans knew about crop rotation, but by the Middle Ages, farming was based on the practice of letting the land lie fallow, unplanted — resting it, in other words. The purpose of that practice, like crop rotation itself, is to prevent the soil from becoming exhausted when the same crop is sown over and over again. In early American agriculture, only sophisticated farmers like Washington and Jefferson were using crop rotations in their fields. There was simply too much good land available. It was too easy to farm a piece and then move on when the soil was depleted.

In one sense, that is still how modern agriculture works. You look to the future and discard the past. A modern rotation includes only corn, soybeans, fertilizer and pesticides. Whatever you may think about genetically modified crops, the switch to those varieties has driven the rush to the two-crop system. Those crops are designed to tolerate the presence of herbicides. The result is that farmland has been inundated with glyphosate, the herbicide genetically modified crops are engineered for.

The very structure of the agricultural system, as it stands now, is designed to return the greatest profit possible, not to the farmers but to the producers of the chemicals they use and the seeds they plant. And because those chemicals depend on fossil energy, the entire system is inherently unsustainable. What farmers used to return to the soil in the form of labor and animal manure — not the toxic kind you find in livestock confinement systems — they now must purchase, just the way they buy diesel for their tractors.

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