Producers are often interested in ways to diversify and intensify their cropping systems to improve profitability and sustainability. One potential way to improve profitability is by harvesting two crops in the same year through either relay-intercrop (RI) systems (planting a second crop prior to harvest of the first crop) or double-crop (DC) systems (planting a second crop after harvest of a first crop) (Figure 1).
This fact sheet compares the yield and profitability of several RI, DC, and mono-crop (MC) systems (planting and harvesting a single crop in one year) in a northwestern Ohio environment.
Cropping systems are listed below with planting and harvesting dates shown in Table 1.
- MC soybean
- MC red clover
- MC wheat planted in narrow row (NR) width of 7.5-inches
- MC wheat planted in wide row (WR) width of 15-inches
- Wheat in NR + DC soybean
- Wheat in NR + RI red clover (red clover was frost-seeded in March or April)
- Wheat in WR + RI soybean (soybean planted into winter wheat at wheat heading)
- Wheat in WR + RI red clover
- Wheat in NR + DC oat
|Treatment||Crop||Row width (inch)||Planting date||Harvesting date||Planting date||Harvesting date||Planting date||Harvesting date|
|1||MCa soybean||Soybean||15||May 25, 2016||Oct. 14, 2016||May 6, 2017||Oct. 19, 2017||May 24, 2018||Oct. 24, 2018|
|2||MC red clover||Red Clover||Broadcast||April 5, 2016||Oct. 8, 2016||March 9, 2017||Oct. 25, 2017||April 13, 2018||Oct. 12, 2018|
|3||MC wheat NRb||Wheat||7.5||Sept. 28, 2015||June 30, 2016||Oct. 12, 2016||July 3, 2017||Sept. 29, 2017||July 5, 2018|
|4||MC wheat WRc||Wheat||15||Sept. 28, 2015||June 30, 2016||Oct. 12, 2016||July 3, 2017||Sept. 29, 2017||July 5, 2018|
|5||Wheat NR + DCd soybean||Wheat||7.5||Sept. 28, 2015||June 30, 2016||Oct. 12, 2016||July 3, 2017||Sept. 29, 2017||July 5, 2018|
|Red Clover||15||July 1, 2016||Oct. 25, 2016||July 6, 2017||Nov. 14, 2017||July 5, 2018||Oct. 24, 2018|
|6||Wheat NR + RI red clover||Wheat||7.5||Sept. 28, 2015||June 30, 2016||Oct. 12, 2016||July 3, 2017||Sept. 29, 2017||July 5, 2018|
|Red Clover||Broadcast||April 5, 2016||Oct. 8, 2016||June 6, 2017||Oct. 25, 2017||April 13, 2018||Oct. 12, 2018|
|7||Wheat WR + RI soybeanf||Wheat||15||Sept. 28, 2015||June 30, 2016||Oct. 12, 2016||July 3, 2017||Sept. 29, 2017||July 5, 2018|
|Soybean||15||May 25, 2016||Oct. 14, 2016||June 6, 2017||Oct. 19, 2017||May 29, 2018||Oct. 24, 2018|
|8||Wheat NR + RI red clover||Wheat||15||Sept. 28, 2015||June 30, 2016||Oct. 12, 2016||July 3, 2017||Sept. 29, 2017||Ju;y 5, 2018|
|Red clover||Broadcast||April 5, 2016||Oct. 8, 2016||March 9, 2017||Oct. 25, 2017||April 13, 2018||Oct. 12, 2018|
|9||Wheat NR + DC oat||Wheat||7.5||Sept. 28, 2015||June 30, 2016||Oct. 12, 2016||July 3, 2017||Sept. 29, 2017||July 5, 2018|
|Oats||7.5||Aug. 4, 2016||Oct. 8, 2016||Aug. 28, 2017||Oct. 25, 2015||Aug. 10, 2017||Oct. 12, 2018|
|aMC - monocrop, single crop produced during the cropping year.|
|bNR - narrow row, crop planted in 7.5-inch row width.|
|cWR - wide row, crop planted in 15-inch row width.|
|dDC - double crop, crop planted after winter wheat harvest.|
|eRI - relay intercrop, red clover planted into winter weat during the late winter or early spring ("frost seeded").|
|fRI relay intercrop, soybean planted into winter wheat at Feekes 10.1 to 10.5 growth stage (wheat heading).|
Wheat grain yield - Wheat grain yield for each cropping system is shown in Figure 2. Across the three trial years, MC wheat planted in the NR system produced the same grain yield as the wheat NR + RI red clover, wheat NR + DC soybean, and wheat NR + DC oat. This suggests that RI red clover, frost-seeded in March or April did not have a negative impact on wheat-grain yield. Grain yield was reduced by 9–12% in the MC wheat WR system and the wheat WR + RI red clover system compared with the MC wheat NR system. Previously conducted trials in northwest Ohio have also noted a reduction in wheat yield when planted in WR compared with NR (Richer and Lindsey 2016). The wheat WR + RI soybean system resulted in the lowest wheat grain yield, which was 23% lower than the MC wheat NR system. Yield reductions in the wheat WR + RI soybean may be attributed to planting wheat in WR, mechanical damage from soybean planting equipment, and plant competition (Chan et al. 1980; Duncan and Schapaugh Jr. 1997; Lindsey Lindsey, Lentz, and Baik 2016; Moomaw and Powell 1990; and Reinbott et al. 1987).
Soybean grain yield - Soybean grain yield for each cropping system is shown in Figure 3. Across the three cropping system years, soybean grown as a MC had yields that were 69 and 189% greater than soybean grown as a RI and DC, respectively. Reduced soybean yield in the RI system was likely due to competition with wheat plants. Yield reduction in the DC system was likely due to late soybean planting dates because the DC soybean was planted in early July, whereas the RI soybean was planted in late May or early June (Table 1). The soybean planting date has been identified as the management factor that most consistently influences soybean grain yield when soil moisture is not limited during pod-setting (Edreira et al. 2017). In Ohio, delaying soybean planting after May 1 resulted in yield losses of up to 0.6 bushels per acre per day.
Red clover forage biomass - Red clover forage biomass is shown in Figure 4. Across the three-year study, red clover forage biomass was the same for the MC red clover, wheat NR + RI red clover, and wheat WR + RI red clover cropping systems. This indicates that winter wheat (grown in NR or WR) did not affect the yield of the red clover likely because red clover can establish and survive in low light and the plants are competitive when grown under a canopy (Snapp et al. 2005).
Cropping system profitability - Using grain prices and input prices from each year of the study, the most profitable cropping system was wheat WR + RI red clover and wheat NR + RI red clover. Although winter wheat (WR and NR) + RI red clover was among the most profitable systems, producers need to consider the marketability of red clover. In years when alfalfa is in short supply, there is a good market for red clover; however, if alfalfa supply is adequate, there is less demand for red clover.
Cropping systems with the next highest profitability included MC soybean and wheat WR + RI soybean. Producers would likely choose MC soybean production over multi-crop systems to reduce workload and management associated with planting, harvesting, and maintaining two crops within the same cropping year. However, in years with high wheat prices and red clover prices and relatively low soybean prices, the multi-crop systems may be more profitable than the soybean MC system.
Cropping systems with the lowest profitability included MC wheat NR, MC wheat WR, and MC red clover. Although MC winter wheat was among the least profitable systems, growers may still want to include wheat into their corn-soybean rotations due to the environmental benefits associated with fall-planted crops, such as reduced soil erosion, reduced nitrate loss, and increased soil organic matter (Kelley, Long, and Todd 2003; Sainju et al. 2002; Kessavalous and Walters 1999; and Kingyangi et al. 2001). This research suggests that if producers want to include winter wheat into their crop rotations, growing winter wheat + RI red clover or soybean can improve profitability. Additionally, farmers may be eligible for cost-share payments that further incentivize planting winter wheat through federal and state government programs.
This fact sheet was based on the peer-reviewed publication: Shrestha, Ray K., Eric Richer, William B. Clevenger, Matthew, Davis, and Laura E. Lindsey. 2021. “Effect of mono-, relay-, and double-crop systems on yield and profitability.” Agronomy Journal Volume 113, Issue 2: 1747–1757.
We thank the Ohio Small Grains Marketing Program for funding this project.
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