Early Wheat Could Provide An Opportunity For Double Cropping

Unseasonably warm weather has pushed Indiana’s wheat crop about two weeks ahead of schedule, presenting an opportunity for growers to consider planting a second crop following harvest.

In a more typical year, Indiana’s wheat crop wouldn’t mature until mid-June in the southern part of the state, and harvest wouldn’t wrap up until mid-July in the north, said Herb Ohm, Purdue University research agronomist. With the crop so far ahead of schedule this spring, growers should have a better window of opportunity to plant no-till corn or soybeans immediately following wheat harvest.

“Given the unusual earliness of the wheat crop along with high commodity prices, farmers should give more attention to their crops,” Ohm said. “There might be an opportunity to harvest wheat at higher moisture levels and follow it with another crop.”

Preliminary data show that harvesting wheat at a moisture level of 18 to 20% does not hurt the milling and baking quality. It also prevents reduced test weight that can occur with each rainfall after wheat in the field reaches physiological maturity.

Harvesting at higher moisture will require growers to dry the wheat at about 95-100°, but with wheat prices in the $6 area, Ohm said it could be worth it.

“If growers wait for wheat to reach 13% moisture in the fields, there are more chances for rain,” he said. “And enough rain could hurt not only test weights, but grain milling and baking qualities.”

Ohm suggested monitoring weather and the wheat crop’s progression in the coming weeks, and if the forecast is favorable, planting corn or soybeans as soon as wheat is harvested.

Double-crop corn and soybeans require little or no seedbed preparation because, according to Ohm, it’s a fine situation for no-till. Growers, however, need to watch the weather because soil moisture is key for corn and soybean germination.

“Growers should cut wheat stubble to about 4-6 inches, then no-till the following crop in as soon as possible,” he said. “They also need to watch the forecast. If soil moisture is high enough, or rains are predicted within a week, it would be a great opportunity to plant a second crop.

“I would only have second thoughts if it is too dry.”

In the southern part of Indiana, both corn and soybeans are viable options for a second crop following wheat. Because of the cooler conditions and shorter growing season in the northern part of the state, soybeans are the better option.

In addition to watching the weather for the remainder of the wheat-growing season, Ohm said farmers need to scout their fields weekly for any diseases or developing problems. With the high commodity prices, he recommended treating the crop, if warranted.

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