This year has been uniquely challenging, but in more typical seasons when planting is timely and the conditions are right, double cropping can be a profitable practice. However, with a shorter growing season and less time between successive crops, this production system also poses distinct obstacles and increased potential for risks like disease pressure. Fortunately, local experts are working to fine tune the strategy and provide helpful recommendations for those looking to get started or improve their current approach.

“The majority of double crop soybean production in Ohio is in the southern portion of the state where the growing season is longer,” said Dr. Laura Lindsey, associate professor in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at The Ohio State University. “However, double crop soybean production is moving north in Ohio as farmers are planting winter malting barley, which is harvested approximately 10 days earlier than winter wheat. This opens up the opportunity for double crop soybean production farther north in the state.”

With more and more farmers adopting the practice in Ohio, OSU researchers like Dr. Lindsey are digging deeper into the topic through research trials and studies to equip the state’s growers with the most effective management strategies.

“We are currently looking at disease and insect management in double crop soybean production,” explained Dr. Lindsey. “When soybeans are planted later, disease and insect management may be different compared to full-season, or early-planted, soybeans. We have a trial at two locations in Ohio looking at fungicide and insecticide seed treatments and foliar fungicide and insecticide applications.”

For those looking to incorporate the practice, it’s important to keep these two key considerations in mind: timing and water availability.

Soybeans are typically the second crop in the double cropping sequence, often following a small grain like wheat or winter malting barley. For a successful soybean yield, maximizing the growing season is essential, which requires harvesting the small grain as early as possible.

“There is some risk with double crop soybean, especially in northern areas, if there’s an early frost,” said Dr. Lindsey. This makes planting and harvest timing even more essential in northern Ohio.

There must also be adequate water available in a field to support the production of both crops, so most double cropping systems depend on rainfall and stored soil moisture. Irrigation can be used as a supplement but increases the cost of production. This is why deep, loamy soils with large water supplying capacities are typically best for double crop soybeans, while soils with low available water holding capacity may not be suitable. No-till is also recommended for double crop systems because the surface residue left over can help retain moisture and increase rainfall infiltration.

Since double crop soybeans don’t grow very tall, they should be planted in narrow rows at high seeding rates.

“For double crop soybeans, we recommend planting in rows 15 inches or less, and increasing the seeding rate to 200,000-250,000 seeds per acre,” said Dr. Lindsey.

“There are different management strategies for double crop soybeans compared to full-season soybeans that farmers need to adjust for. To help select a soybean variety, seeding rate, and determine other management practices to maximize yield in a double crop system, use resources like the Ohio Agronomy Guide,” suggested Dr. Lindsey.

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