Over the last decade, growing demand for agricultural commodities has improved the return for farm operators, encouraging increased production. The first logical option to increase production is to increase production acreage. This is not always an option for most farming operations. However, another option in many regions is a multi-cropping practice. Producing more than one crop in a single growing season is becoming more popular and allowing farmers to expand production and potentially increase their economic return on the acre. Multi-cropping practices offer various strategies for intensification by allowing multiple uses of a single field during a single growing season. The four main multi-cropping practices are cover cropping, integrated crop-livestock systems, woodland-based, and double cropping.
Double-cropping has gained interest in recent years as a method to intensify production without farmers needing to expand acreage largely due to improved management practices. Double-cropping wheat followed by soybeans has been a common, profitable option for farmers in most years because double-cropped soybeans yielding as well as full-season soybeans. Although, this is far from a new production practice; some farmers have been employing double-cropping since the 1970s.
The planting and harvesting multiple crops in a calendar year is not without challenges. A double-cropping practice should be approached strategically with considerations made for soil and crop management. Certified agronomist and farmer, Kelly Robertson commented about double-cropping wheat and soybeans at the Illinois Soybean Association annual Soybean Summit in February 2015:
“We approach double-crop soybeans like a habit. The traditional cue is to plant the soybeans as soon as the combine is out of the wheat field. The reward is to have them planted. Some farmers have mud-in the soybeans or plant when it is too dry. It may be worth waiting two or three days after wheat harvest to get the crop into a better seedbed without damaging the soil. There is only one chance to get it right.”
Double-cropping is not the place for wheat growers to cut corners on costs, inputs, yield goals or overall management. These three key steps from agAnytime can increase the success of double-cropping:
- The first step in a successful double-crop wheat-soybean production system begins with residue management during the wheat harvest.
- Selecting later-flowering soybean products improves the chances that double-crop soybeans will produce adequate foliage and fill pods before frost.
- Controlling insects, diseases, and weeds can improve the chances that double-crop soybeans will produce anticipated yields in a shortened growing season.
For more management practices for a successful double-cropping operation, check out these expert resources: