This October, conditions permitting, Illinois farmer Scott Eversgerd will sow his soybean fields with winter wheat. That wheat will mature the following June, and the same day he cuts it, he’ll drill soybeans directly into the residue. Later that season, in September, he’ll harvest the soybeans, thereby profiting from two cash crops in one year. This is known as “double-cropping.”
This practice is expanding throughout the world, in part because market pressures such as the war in Ukraine, drought in India, and inflation have increased commodity prices. But due to economic risks as well as agronomic limitations to the practice, double-cropping is not a fit for every farmer and every field. Here’s what farmers should know before doubling down on a second crop.
What’s grown where—and why
In the past, Eversgerd’s Illinois land wouldn’t have been suited to double-cropping since climate has long determined who can double-crop (or even multicrop). Wherever there is abundant sunlight, adequate rainfall, and above-freezing temperatures year-round—historically, the Global South—farmers have multicropped as a matter of course. Today, the most intensively cultivated farmland is in East Asia and South Asia, where 63 percent of the world’s multicroppers farm. Farmers there can sow and harvest upwards of three crops (typically rice) on the same acreage every year.