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Double-Crop after Wheat?

Written by Bob Fanning, former SDSU Extension Plant Pathology Field Specialist.

Two thousand twelve will go down in the record books as one of the earliest winter wheat harvests in history. Winter wheat harvest in the United States always begins in southern Texas, and as a wheat producer from Wichita Falls, TX stated in a radio interview, 2012 was the first time anyone there had ever heard of harvesting wheat in April.

The phenomena began with a warm, relatively snow-free winter, followed by a near record, rapid accumulation of growing degree days, causing early development of the wheat crop. This early development, and expected harvest, may have some producers thinking about an opportunity to raise a second crop this year, or as it is known in more southern latitudes as “double-cropping”.

Two crops in one year may sound tempting, and for some crop species is possible, but before doing so, producers should consider possible crops and compare the potential benefits with the drawbacks.

These options assume adequate soil moisture is present to germinate the seed at the latest date indicated. Cross-reference crops with prior herbicide usage to insure they are compatible with possible herbicide carryover.

The market price for many of the agricultural commodities are good, but some of the deterrents to double-cropping include additional input costs, heavy dependence on summer rains, increased workload, and possible negative effects on future crops. Since a second crop grown in the same year cannot be insured at this time in South Dakota, producers planting these crops for grain will be “self-insured”.

With the lack of grass growth and poor hay crops reported in many areas, and reports of dry conditions in much of the state, forage crops may be some of the better options. Anything that can be grazed will reduce input costs, particularly if the land is already fenced and water is accessible. If raising crops for forage, be aware of the potential for nitrate and/or prussic acid poisoning.

If adequate soil moisture is available, the early wheat harvest that is expected may prompt some producers to simply plant cover crops.