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Intercropping soybeans may offer higher yields

David Ekstrom 09/03/2013 @ 5:00pm

A technique called modified relay intercropping of soybeans allows growers to capture 66% of the traditional growing season. At least, it did in Ohio. 

Planting soybeans into wheat not only resulted in higher soybean yields but also offered a significant financial boost to growers compared to a traditional double-crop of soybeans, according to research from Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Ohio State University Extension field specialist Steve Prochaska says intercropping allows a second crop through interplanting of soybeans into wheat in late May or early June. According to the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, modified relay of intercropped wheat can yield at least 90% of conventional wheat.

“In 14 years of research trials in north-central Ohio on the modified relay intercropping system, yields have averaged 76 bushels per acre for wheat and 28 bushels per acre for soybeans,” Prochaska said. “Wheat yields in favorable growing seasons have exceeded 90 bushels per acre, while soybeans have yielded well over 45 bushels per acre.”

According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, diversity is nature’s design. By producing a limited selection of crop plants and animals, humankind has greatly reduced the level of biological diversity over much of the earth. With the practice of intercropping, we are going back to our roots by realizing the benefits of diversity that comes from planting mixtures of different crops.

Tips to consider when intercropping soybeans into wheat include:

Wheat row-spacing modification to allow soybean planting equipment to pass without running down plants should be made in the fall. The optimal wheat row spacing for modified relay intercropping ranges from 10 to 20 inches. As wheat row spacing widens, wheat yields may decline, research has shown.

Various row configurations can be used to allow soybean planting equipment. Some wheat producers have slide row units to a 6-inch row spacing with a 14-inch planting strip for soybeans.

Producers can use corn or soybean planters to sow wheat using a 15-inch row configuration.

Row spacing data suggests that wheat is an adaptable plant that will yield well over various row spacings up to 15 inches.

Use a tramline to accommodate soybean planting and allow for better wheat management via fertilizer, herbicide, or fungicide applications. Generally, the tramline will be set up for the modified relay intercropping tractor tires.

Planter equipment tires can be moved if necessary to follow tractor tires.

Wheat culture for modified relay intercropping, outside of row spacing modification, should remain the same as for monoculture wheat.

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