Single sunflower blooms amid field of wheat with soybeans planted in distant field moodboard/Getty Images
BEST OF BOTH: Big data is in: Double-cropping high-moisture wheat and soybeans can boost returns of both.

Catch this double-crop win-win

Crop Tech Update: Planting beans after high-moisture wheat; catch peak alfalfa and corn.

It's too late for this year. But resolve to try it next year. Harvest high-moisture wheat, then double crop soybeans and net more money from both crops. That's the bottom line of a multi-state mid-Atlantic research project funded by Soybean Checkoff funds.

"Other practices help, but aren't nearly as important," says David Holshouser, Virginia Tech Extension agronomist heading up the project. "Early wheat harvest resulted in higher wheat yields and quality. Harvesting wheat at higher moisture (15% to 20%) can increase wheat yield by reducing test weight loss and increasing quality."

Nearly half of mid-Atlantic soybean acres are planted after field-dried small grain harvest. Late planting dates historically result in 10% to 30% less yield versus full-season soybeans.

The trials involved 20 sites in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina from 2015 to 2017.  The practice may increase overall double-crop income, even though wheat drying costs would rise. The next step, Holshouser says, is to encourage grain buyers to purchase high-moisture wheat without dockage.

Source: Mid-Atlantic Soybean Checkoff Board

Capture peak alfalfa quality
If you grow alfalfa for dairy forage, you already know about proper cutting height and knocking out fields at early bloom. But Jon Pretz, Hubbard Feeds dairy nutritionist, adds that time of day also impacts feed quality.

Alfalfa accumulates soluble carbohydrates during daylight. That's why long sunny days boosts plant sugar and starch content. After a sunny day, alfalfa's sugar content will be highest in late afternoon and lowest in the morning.

Cutting the crop in the afternoon can help to minimize sugar loss, but will likely increase drying time by nearly 18 hours compared to morning-cut alfalfa. Depending on your acres to harvest, that's not always a practical decision. Some researchers argue that increased sugar content isn't worth the potential exposure to weather risk.

And don't forget ash content. Higher-than-normal ash levels can result of picking up additional ash from soil during mowing, windrowing and chopping. Raising the cutter height can greatly reduce ash content — and increase dry matter digestibility.

It's also important to ensure push tractors and delivery trucks don't contaminate bunker piles with soil, mud or manure. Increased ash content significantly increases risk of additional Clostridia spores in haylage, causing undesirable fermentation.

Source: Hubbard Feeds

Tap more untapped corn yield potential?
Early this year, Science Reports published a 30-year study documenting a surprising reason for upsurging corn yield potential. The rate of yield gain per plant increased 78% due to improved plant genetics. Remember, that's just yield per plant. Higher plant densities also magnify yields as much as 17% when yield environments are not limited.

Modern hybrids have a stability that old hybrids didn't, suggests Ignacio Ciampitti, Kansas State University agronomist and lead author in the study. "If that's the case," notes Stephen Smith, Iowa State University agronomist and retired DuPont Pioneer researcher, "breeders will have found a level and class of genetic response that has mostly remained hidden."

"It used to be that we were primarily achieving yield gains by improving plant density tolerance. But there's evidence from this and other studies that we're seeing yield per plant increasing," confirms Paul Carter, DuPont Pioneer agronomy manager. The meta-data suggests the yield gain from modern maize hybrids was due to increased plant density tolerance along with other yield components.

Source: Kansas State University

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