Wheat School: Relay intercropping trials and tribulations

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Will relay intercropping work in Ontario?

For a second year, RealAgriculture agronomist Peter Johnson has been keeping a close eye on relay intercropping trials planted in the province. The objective of the research is to evaluate whether Ontario farmers could effectively plant soybeans into standing wheat versus double cropping soybeans that are planted after wheat is harvested.

In 2017/18, three trials where run in the province featuring two, 7.5-inch rows of winter wheat planted on 30-inch centres. The next two rows on the drill were blocked to create space for single rows of soybeans, which were planted the following spring. Unfortunately, an extremely dry June allowed early-planted wheat to out compete the struggling soybeans in the trials leading to reduced or no yield for the oilseed crop.

On this episode of RealAgriculture’s Wheat School, Johnson takes a look at year two of the trials and describes a much different scenario in 2018/19. This time, late planted, less competitive winter wheat provided an excellent opportunity for soybeans to establish, but yield results where underwhelming.

“On the year we thought we did everything right, we still only got 20-bushel-per-acre soybeans,” says Johnson who also estimates that intercropping will reduce wheat yield by 10 percent.

Johnson notes that a third year of trials are planned and efforts will be made to tackle several challenges that have impacted yield. The research team will look to reduce soybean plant damage when combining wheat and also aim for better weed control, especially when the wheat is less competitive.

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