Double Cropping – Cropping Up This Planting Season

In an age of agricultural innovations, a traditional, tried-and-true farming method holds its own. Double cropping is a widely used polyculture practice among farmers to maximize profit and acreage.

Double cropping can mean double dividends for farmers. To leverage land, farmers practice double cropping – the consecutive production of commodities in the same field within the same year. A renewed interest in a conventional strategy is being witnessed because of America’s healthy commodity-crop market.

“If properly managed, double cropping can allow a grower to produce a second crop with a short turn-around time and minimal inputs compared to the first crop. Double cropping thus allows a grower to increase efficiency by making multiple uses of production inputs,” said George Hochmuth, associate dean for research at the University of Florida.

Planting one crop after directly harvesting another crop has multiple advantages:
• Increased yields: Profits are maximized when producers’ yield for one field is twofold.
• Land-use efficiency: Optimizing field-use demonstrates sustainable agriculture.
• Resistance to erosion: Occupied fields keep soil compact to reduce soil loss and runoff into water systems.
• Resistance to disease/pest cycles: Continually altering crops in a field promotes resistance to crop-specific ailments as lingering crops can develop immunity throughout time.

The name of the game is preparation and management. Many factors complicate the practice. Time management is essential. Growing seasons are limited and farmers need to be cognizant of crop-specific time and weather constraints. Secondly, crops need to be compatible with each other when subsequently planting.

“Double cropping soybeans after wheat becomes quite competitive economically with other cropping practices,” said Dr. Keith Smith, Ohio State University horticulture and crop-science professor, “In fields where soybean diseases are a major problem, double-cropping soybeans will make those problems worse and should not be attempted.”

Problems can also arise with fertilizer and pesticide residue, as well as crop residue such as wheat stubble. If these considerations aren’t accounted for, farmers can lose money and may experience reduced pest and disease management.

Corn, wheat and soybeans are the most common double crop choices in the U.S. The typical pattern is winter wheat following either soybeans or corn, though it is important to note that double cropping isn’t exclusive to grain. Emerging double crops include canola and cotton. Crop selection varies regarding a farm’s climate conditions.

Researchers are experimenting with new double-crop patterns to make the most of time, farmland and producer costs. Double cropping is appearing in new agricultural sectors such as the raspberry and sunflower seed industries. New seed varieties are also being developed that require shorter growing seasons to improve yield potential.

Double cropping is resourceful. It can be economical and ecological for both the agriculture industry and consumers. Farmers across the nation practice double cropping to make the most of their investments in a lean economy, while consumers can rely and feel good about an abundant, dependable, affordable food supply that is created without additional environmental effects.

With planting season on the horizon, farmers will be double cropping to capitalize their time and monetary investments. Double cropping will expand with equipment and biotechnology innovations and demand an even greater presence in the agriculture industry.

What other customary farming techniques are as widely implemented and as effective as double cropping? What crops should researchers experiment with? In what other ways can farmers optimize their land?

No comments: