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Navigating relay cropping in Ont.

Navigating relay cropping in Ont.

Several growers hope to understand competition between crops

 
Staff Writer
Farms.com
 
Some Ontario producers are studying the effectiveness of relay cropping winter wheat and soybeans. 
 
The farmers want to understand if this method of crop production can increase profits, a Thursday OMAFRA field crop report said. 
 
Using this approach, farmers plant soybeans in between rows of winter wheat. The beans continue to grow after the farmers harvest the wheat. The goal is to harvest two cash crops in one year.
 
Producers include winter wheat in their rotations to create a “living soil cover through fall, winter and early spring.” In the process, farmers boost overall crop diversity, contributing to greater soil health, the report said. 
 
To get a better sense of yields and potential profits, several growers conducted on-farm trials this year. 
 
Mark Burnham, who farms near Coburg, is one of these producers. In the fall, Burnham planted winter wheat in three alternate row spacing formations:
 
1) twin rows, consisting of two rows of wheat and two open rows
2) winter wheat planted in 15-inch row spacing 
3) three 7.5-inch rows of winter wheat, with one open 7.5-inch row left for soybeans 
 
In his plots, “the wheat yield was reduced by 5 to 16 per cent depending on the different spacing of the wheat with interseeded soybeans,” the report said. If growers increase plant population to compensate for wider row spacing, they may offset yield losses. 
 
Other challenges growers may encounter include weed control, plant competition, stand population, soybean population, and winter wheat harvest, the report explained. 
 
Burnham, along with fellow farmers Reuben DeJong, Travis Greydanus, Mike Strang and Rick Kootstra, hope to find other producers interested in exploring relay cropping in 2019. 
 
Farms.com has reached out to agronomists for comment. 
 
barmalini 2016/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo 
 

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I tried this a few years ago. At the time I used a 30 inch unit planter to plant soybeans into solid seeded wheat. The soybeans got too tall before we could combine the wheat. We cut the tops off the soybeans and they never recovered from that. I might try again as we have a 15 inch unit planter now. The beans may not grow as high in narrower rows.
Jim Maw |Dec 1 2018 1:59PM