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Management of double-crop soybeans following small grains


How to make the most of a double-crop system

Have you considered double-cropping soybeans? Though the practice comes with challenges, double-cropping soybeans after small-grain crops such as wheat can increase production and revenue. By making a few adjustments in your practices, you can successfully produce an extra soybean crop. Here's what you need to know.

The small-grain factor

A small grain will have some effects on the crop planted afterwards. First of all, residue will be greater. David Holshouser, Associate Professor and Extension Agronomist at Virginia Tech, says growers need to ensure good soil-to-seed contact because of the additional residue. "Make sure to set the planter or drill to 1) cut through the residue, 2) penetrate the soil to the proper seeding depth, and 3) close the seed V. Make sure that the seed is only touching soil and not residue."

In addition, the small grain has removed moisture from the soil, and the ground has not had the winter to bring moisture levels back up. Therefore, you should conserve as much moisture as you can. The best way to maintain moisture on the ground is by keeping the residue.

Third, the small grain has removed not only moisture, but also nutrients from the soil. The straw will hold many nutrients, but until it breaks down, you could have nutrient deficiencies.

Holshouser warns not to cut back on basic soil fertility so that deficiencies can be addressed. "If the small grains were not adequately fertilized, make sure to add fertilizer before or soon after planting your soybeans."

Planting date

When double cropping soybeans, you will have shortened growing seasons. Growers should implement certain practices to negate the short season.

To start with, plant as early as possible. "Plant the soybeans on the same day that you harvest the wheat," Holshouser advises. "You'll lose a half bushel a day if you delay planting."

Narrowing the rows and increasing the seeding rate will also help with a short season. Because the soybean plants will not grow as large, they will not produce as many seeds. Increasing the seeding rate makes up for the loss.

In addition, be sure to select the variety with the latest maturing date, ideally one that matures right before the first frost. "You already have a short season, and you don't want to make it shorter with an early maturing seed," Holshouser says. "Look at the variety testing date and consult with an agronomist to ensure the best seed for your needs."

Pest management

The way you handle pests can change in a double-cropping system as well. Fortunately, when it comes to treating weeds, growers typically find it easier than in a full-season system. The small-grain residue helps to inhibit the weed growth - this again stresses the importance of keeping residue. Growers should also make timely herbicide applications: start clean for the best weed control.

When it comes to treating insects, double-crop growers typically face more problems with pod-feeding insects. "Since you are pushing the crop later into the season, you might have more problems with stinkbugs and corn earworm," Holshouser states. "Regardless, experts still recommend spraying only when the threshold has been established."

Double-cropping soybeans could prove an advantageous solution for your operation. For more information on double-cropping, please consult your local Southern States Agronomy Professional.

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