2021 double crop soybeans could be 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity

With the winter wheat crop advancing quickly and soybean prices hovering around $18, there’s a lot of chatter in Ontario about double cropping soybeans in 2021.

The topic commanded the attention of agronomists, researchers and agribusiness reps for almost 20 minutes at this week’s virtual Ridgetown Agribusiness meeting. With the stars aligning, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs soybean specialist Horst Bohner acknowledged that growers may be looking at a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I think this will be the biggest double crop year we’ve ever had if the weather is half decent with respect to getting the wheat off,” said Bohner. Based on past experience, he says growers can expect between 20 and 30 bushels per acre “if the fall is good.” There is risk — growers can harvest 40 bushels or they can also harvest nothing, cautions Bohner.

Syngenta agronomist Eric Richter, right, one of Canada’s leading experts on the double crop system, discuss what factors growers need to consider before taking the leap. See links to the three-part Soybean School series below.

“It is a high risk activity — you need a really good September and you need lots of sunshine,” noted AGRIS C0-op agronomist Dale Cowan. “But you can’t help yourself at $18 beans. You have to take the risk.”

RealAgriculture agronomist Peter Johnson added further context for growers to mull over as they contemplate double cropping: “15 bushels at $18 is as good as 30 bushels at $9.”

When it comes to double cropping success, there are plenty of best management practices to consider. For Bohner, planting date is the most important factor. Depending on geography, he says July 1 should be the target planting date. Every day after that will cost growers one bushel of yield potential. That means growers planting on July 15 have lost 15 bushels, said Bohner.

Johnson recommends growers interested in double cropping to check out a RealAgriculture Soybean School video series he recorded several years ago with Syngenta agronomist Eric Richter. In this three-part series, Richter, who spent years working with growers committed to the practice, discusses whether double crop soybeans are a good fit for your farm and the five keys to success — from planting date and seeding rate to variety selection.

Johnson and Richter filmed the series in a double crop field planted at Ian Matheson’s farm at Embro, Ontario. In the third and final episode they visit the field to inspect the crop before harvest to examine how the system performed in 2016. (See the full video series below)

Soybean School — Double Cropping Part 1

Soybean School — Double Cropping Part 2

Soybean School — Double Cropping Part 3

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