US asks farmers: Can you plant 2 crops instead of 1?

cigaretteman

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We used to grow winter wheat all the time when I was growing up, even though we did it mainly for the straw:

There is only so much farmland in the United States, so when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last spring prompted worries that people would go hungry as wheat remained stuck in blockaded ports, there was little U.S. farmers could do to meet the new demand.

But that may be changing.



Earlier this summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture instituted new policies to encourage American farmers to begin growing two crops on one piece of land, one after the other, a practice known as double-cropping. By changing insurance rules to lessen the risk of growing two crops, the USDA hopes to significantly increase the amount of wheat that U.S. farmers could grow every year, lessening the reliance on big wheat producers like Ukraine and Russia and eliminating bottlenecks.

The idea is an intriguing development from the Ukraine war that hasn’t received widespread attention. As fall approaches, it’s unclear how many farmers will actually try the new system, but some who already grow two crops say it’s something farmers should consider.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Illinois farmer Jeff O’Connor, who has double-cropped for years and hosted President Joe Biden at an event in May to promote efforts to increase food production. “How successful it will be, I don’t know.”

Even if the effort is only moderately successful, agriculture groups are hoping for new ways of meeting a growing global demand for food while generating more profit for farmers amid high fertilizer and fuel costs. As Andrew Larson with the Illinois Soybean Association put it, “It removes some of the hurdles and provides a lot more flexibility.”

In 2020, the U.S. exported wheat valued at $6.3 billion. The U.S. along with Russia, Australia and Canada usually lead the world in wheat exports, with Ukraine typically ranked fifth, though its shipments will drop this year due to the war.

Double-cropping isn’t new in parts of the South and southern Midwest, which have the key advantage of longer growing seasons. Those warmer temperatures let farmers squeeze in a fall planting of one crop — usually winter wheat — that is dormant over the winter and then grows and can be harvested in late spring, just as farmers plant a second crop — typically soybeans.


The problem comes when cool weather delays the spring harvest of wheat, which in turn delays the planting of soybeans. And that’s where the USDA’s new effort could ease the risk of a costly planting backup.

The USDA’s Risk Management Agency would streamline crop insurance approvals for farmers planting a second crop in more than 1,500 counties where double-cropping seems viable. The agency also would work with crop insurers and farm groups to promote a greater availability of coverage in other counties.

In announcing its effort, the USDA said it was aiming to “stabilize food prices and feed Americans and the world amidst continuing challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.”

The USDA didn’t mention climate change, but the agency and other experts have long said warming temperatures will spur farmers to rethink what they grow and how.

The new program is focused more on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is a leading supplier of wheat to people in Africa and the Middle East. After the invasion, wheat prices nearly doubled to over $12 a bushel, though since then prices have steadily dropped as supply concerns have eased, in part because of agreements that have allowed for the export of some Ukraine wheat.

The USDA didn’t respond to a request for details about how many farmers the agency hopes will begin double-cropping or how much U.S production could increase.

Farmers who double-crop often have smaller crops, but two smaller crops would still be significantly larger than an individual crop.

A study published in August by the University of Illinois and Ohio State University found that was certainly the case this year, as high wheat prices resulted in double-cropped land in southern Illinois bringing a projected $251 per acre return for wheat and soybeans, which is $81 higher than a stand-alone soybean crop. The double-crop benefit was less dramatic in other parts of the state and could be less if wheat prices drop.

Mark Lehenbauer, who raises livestock and grows row crops near Palmyra, Missouri, said he’s double-cropped for years and finds it reliably profitable. Still, he cautions that there is a years-long learning curve as farmers learn how to accomplish the task of planting one crop just as they need to harvest another.

And Lehenbauer acknowledged that many farmers may simply be reluctant to take on the added risks or extra workload.

“There are a lot of extra steps in there,” Lehenbauer said. “It adds some complexity.”

Ultimately, the biggest factor behind whether farmers begin growing an extra crop of wheat is what price they can get for the crop, said Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri. Although prices have dropped from the peaks soon after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they remain at the still profitable level of nearly $8 a bushel.

“It really comes down to where wheat prices go in the future,” he said. “Even with the drop in prices we’ve seen, wheat prices are pretty high so there should be a little more incentive for wheat double cropping in this next year than there has been.”

 
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The Tradition

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Time to diversify, Trad.

We always have a spring garden and a fall garden here at Tradition Manor, and some things grow over the winter (onions, broccoli, garlic, etc.). Summer is when the beds are fallow, but this year I tried sweet potatoes. Will dig them up soon to see what we got.

All my fall crops are now in the ground except for the basil. They're still in seeding trays getting big enough to plant out.
 
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alaskanseminole

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If they do that, they won’t have time to sit around, drink coffee, and bitch about all the freeloaders in the cities who don’t know how to work for a living while cashing their subsidy check.
You've never bitched while working and/or drinking coffee?
 

Finance85

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When I was in PA a couple of years ago, I asked an Amish guy I was working with about the corn crop. The variety was very tall compared to corn in the deep South. We can get 3 (rotating) crops per year most years. I told him it looked like they could only get one corn crop per year. He explained they harvested the corn, and the stalks for cattle feed. I guess it's going to depend on region, and some farmers will need to adapt, especially to the notion of subsidies (to not plant) going away.
 

ihhawk

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I would be interested to see what the incentive would be from the govt. I can see most farmers not pissing with it unless there are some real incentives involved.

the environmental impact would negative and it is a good way to wear out your machinery much quicker.

we tried it a couple times in the 90s but I don’t think it penciled out. Did it for the straw. The beans didn’t get much July rain and didn’t amount to much

Praying for rain to get them to start growing and then praying for there not to be an early frost. Huge gamble
 
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Ol' Dirty Bastard

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If they do that, they won’t have time to sit around, drink coffee, and bitch about all the freeloaders in the cities...
There are some who do that, and there are some that work winter jobs,

Farmers really should be asking themselves what Alanis Morissette would do to alleviate the wheat shortage.

It's like raaaaaiin on your planting day.

You really think farmers will give up four months in Arizona next winter to plant another crop?

No chance in hell

It's planted in the fall, there isn't much management needed. Not every farmer is 60.

I would be interested to see what the incentive would be from the govt. I can see most farmers not pissing with it unless there are some real incentives involved.

the environmental impact would negative and it is a good way to wear out your machinery much quicker.

we tried it a couple times in the 90s but I don’t think it penciled out. Did it for the straw. The beans didn’t get much July rain and didn’t amount to much

Praying for rain to get them to start growing and then praying for there not to be an early frost. Huge gamble

As a conventional crop, it doesn't pencil out, but if you're able to use it choke out early weeds and the soil benefits. There are guys doing no till organic that use interplanting and cover crops for weed control with electric zappers and flamers for escapes.

Having to get a drill or another planter to plant wheat (spacing between rows is different 30 inches vs 10 or 7.5 for wheat), is one problem. Having a market to sell the wheat or rye is another or better yet using it.
 

ihhawk

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There are some who do that, and there are some that work winter jobs,



It's like raaaaaiin on your planting day.



It's planted in the fall, there isn't much management needed. Not every farmer is 60.



As a conventional crop, it doesn't pencil out, but if you're able to use it choke out early weeds and the soil benefits. There are guys doing no till organic that use interplanting and cover crops for weed control with electric zappers and flamers for escapes.

Having to get a drill or another planter to plant wheat (spacing between rows is different 30 inches vs 10 or 7.5 for wheat), is one problem. Having a market to sell the wheat or rye is another or better yet using it.
April planted soybeans vs July planted soybeans. Very big yield difference.

You also have no idea if you will even get a crop of soybeans. The issue with winter wheat in Iowa is that you have to harvest it right in a timeframe where it is still raining…and ready to harvest wheat does not like rain.
 
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The Tradition

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April planted soybeans vs July planted soybeans. Very big yield difference.

You also have no idea if you will even get a crop of soybeans. The issue with winter wheat in Iowa is that you have to harvest it right in a timeframe where it is still raining…and ready to harvest wheat does not like rain.

Maybe it works better in Kansas?

Is there anything you can grow in Iowa the second half of the season? Or *gasp* even over winter? Garlic perhaps?
 

ihhawk

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Maybe it works better in Kansas?

Is there anything you can grow in Iowa the second half of the season? Or *gasp* even over winter? Garlic perhaps?
You can plant winter wheat in October and harvest in July. You can plant late soybeans after that but it gets tricky. The average frost date is October 15th SE iowa. You run a risk of not getting a crop. I’ve seen farmers try it and end up bailing the beans for crappy hay.

The wheat yield is tricky as well. It can be all over the place in Iowa.
 

MitchLL

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Calling BS again. What field work you doing in. December, Jan, Feb in Kansas? Looks like the winter wheat is being planted up until the last part of October.

Your tractors are sitting after that.

Unless you know something that Kansas State At department doesn’t

After reading your recent posts...I modify it to five months in Arizona.

Best profession without a college degree.
 

Kelsers

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Maybe it works better in Kansas?

Is there anything you can grow in Iowa the second half of the season? Or *gasp* even over winter? Garlic perhaps?
Frost can go 42-48 deep in Iowa. What can be grown in frozen soil?
 

ihhawk

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Not about having a lack of respect for farmers. I lack respect for the farmer that collects a check from the government, yet bitches about somebody else collecting a check from the government.
Well it sure looks like the USA farmer is being asked to feed a lot more people now…it’s almost like there is a reason every administration keeps the farm bill around.
 

The Tradition

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Frost can go 42-48 deep in Iowa. What can be grown in frozen soil?

They grow garlic overwinter in Wisconsin, Michigan, New England....

 

runkpanole

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Well it sure looks like the USA farmer is being asked to feed a lot more people now…it’s almost like there is a reason every administration keeps the farm bill around.
And it’s almost like a reason they have other subsidies for people. You know, so they can eat and live.
 
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