Developing Profitable Double-Crop Systems after Winter Barley

Final report for ONC18-042

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2018: $26,730.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2020
Grant Recipient: Michigan State University
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Maninderpal Singh
Michigan State University
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Project Information

Summary:

Inclusion of winter barley in cropping systems can increase crop diversity, thus potentially buffering against volatile or low commodity prices. The rapidly expanding craft malting and brewing industries creates a demand for regionally grown barley and can provide a more stable market value for barley growers. Furthermore, winter barley can be harvested up to three weeks before winter wheat, which provides a critical window to add a second crop and improve net profit per acre. In addition to potential economic benefits, double-cropping winter barley and soybeans can improve environmental sustainability by requiring lower inputs than corn or spring barley, providing a winter “cover,” and subsequently placing lower stress on water quality compared to other traditional field crops. To examine the potential for double-cropping with malting barley in the Great Lakes region, a diverse team of farmers, industry representatives, MSU Extension Educators and faculty have assembled to explore this opportunity through on-farm research and targeted outreach efforts. Although the project will be based in southern and mid-Michigan, its outcomes will impact the entire North Central Region where winter malting barley is a re-emerging crop but lacks significant research on double-cropping options.

Project Objectives:

The project goal is to develop agronomic management practices and better understand the economics of double- cropping beans after winter barley. Objectives include:

  • Support on-farm research trials throughout Michigan, representing the Great Lakes region where malting barley is a re-emerging crop
  • Evaluate detailed research questions related to double-crop integration in a controlled university setting
  • Further develop a robust partnership between farmers, extension, faculty, and industry
  • Distribute information throughout the region on methods and economics to farmers, industry representatives, and educators
  • Explore potential for improved profitability of barley cropping systems and increased ecosystem services (e.g. soil health, reduced nutrient loss, increased biodiversity)

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand

Research

Materials and methods:

Replicated trials were conducted in 2018 and 2019 at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) to evaluate the potential and profitability to double crop soybeans, forage crops and cover crops after a crop of winter malting barley (Puffin). Soybean maturity groups (MG) included 1.9, 2.4 and 2.8, all of which were planted at 140,000 seeds per acre and 200,000 seeds per acre. Additionally, one large block of the experiment was irrigated whereas another block was not irrigated. In each block, we also included a treatment of sorghum-sudan for forage, and a diverse cover crop mix. 

2018 Research 

In 2018, the winter barley was harvested on June 30th, and the second crops were no-till planted on July 2nd. We received ample rainfall in August and September of 2018, but still applied 5 inches of irrigation water to the irrigated block, mostly in July after seeding. Due to a significant amount of rainfall in the fall, soybean plots weren’t harvested until mid-December.  Soybean seed from each treatment was evaluated for quality using test weight, protein and oil, with expected reductions with the 2.8 maturity group since the plants did not reach physiological maturity (R8) prior to the first frost.

2019 Research 

In 2019, the winter barley was harvested on July 3rd, and the second crops were no-till planted on July 5th and 6th. Some small rain showers at the time of planting provided soil moisture for the soybeans to germinate, but subsequent months were drier than average, including 1.34 inches for the remainder of July, and 1.73 inches in August. Approximately 5 inches of irrigation water was added to the irrigated block. Due to a significant amount of rainfall in the fall, and slow dry-down of frosted, immature soybeans, the plots weren’t harvested until early December. 

2020 Field Scale Implementation 

Double crop soybeans were planted on June 29th and July 1st after winter barley in two dryland fields (5.5 acres total) with a 2.0 MG soybean, but without any additional research treatments. Both of these fields yielded between 35-40 bushels per acre, which was similar to the same variety of soybeans planted in adjacent fields in May. A period of drought during July and August limited yield for the soybeans planted in May, while the double crop soybeans were still able to utilize rains in late August and September for grain fill (Figure 5). 

Research results and discussion:

SARE-Double-Crop-Partnership-Interim-Report-2019

SARE Double Crop Partnership Interim Report 2020

SARE Double Crop Partnership Final Report 2021

The reports above include full details and results for our partnership project. However, I'm also separating out the data tables and text for overall conclusions here in this section:

Table 1. Data for important soybean metrics are shown for 2018. The design doesn’t allow for direct statistical comparison of irrigated vs. dryland, so maturity groups and seeding rates are used in a factorial analysis with year and irrigation blocks analyzed separately. Different letters within a column indicate statistical significance (P<0.10).

2018 Dryland

Maturity Group

Seeding Rate      x1,000

Yield (bu/A)

Harvest Moisture (%)

Test Weight (lb/bu)

Final Population (plants/acre)

Grain Protein (%)

Grain Oil (%)

1.9

140

37.8

17.8  b

54.2  a

88359

39.3  b

20.9 bc

1.9

200

38.7

18.2  b

54.4  a

179733

39.1  b

21.1  b

2.4

140

42.2

18.3  b

53.2  a

134053

41.1  a

20.9 bc

2.4

200

33.0

18.7  b

53.7  a

228694

41.6  a

20.5  c

2.8

140

34.2

20.0  a

50.6  b

93363

39.6  b

21.7  a

2.8

200

34.4

20.4  a

51.3  b

125509

39.8  b

21.2  b

 

2018 Irrigated

Maturity Group

Seeding Rate x1,000

Yield (bu/A)

Harvest Moisture (%)

Test Weight (lb/bu)

Final Population (plants/acre)

Grain Protein (%)

Grain Oil (%)

1.9

140

44.3  a

18.5  b

53.5  a

124854

39.9  b

20.9 ab

1.9

200

44.5  a

18.7  ab

54.2  a

134310

40.3  b

20.7  b

2.4

140

42.6  a

18.4  b

54.4  a

82064

42.0  a

20.5  b

2.4

200

45.6  a

19.1  ab

53.4  a

151791

42.7  a

20.6  b

2.8

140

31.4  b

20.0  a

50.8  b

126406

40.2  b

21.4  a

2.8

200

33.6  b

20.1  a

50.7  b

142013

40.6  b

21.3  a

Table 2. Data for important soybean metrics are shown for 2019. The design doesn’t allow for direct statistical comparison of irrigated vs. dryland, so maturity groups and seeding rates are used in a factorial analysis with year and irrigation blocks analyzed separately. Different letters within a column indicate statistical significance (P<0.10).

2019 Dryland

Maturity Group

Seeding Rate x1,000

Yield (bu/A)

Harvest Moisture (%)

Test Weight (lb/bu)

Final Population (plants/acre)

Grain Protein (%)

Grain Oil (%)

1.9

140

5.3  b

18.2  b

55.8  a

100804  ab

38.0  b

21.9

1.9

200

9.2  bc

18.3  b

54.6 abc

128644  ab

38.4  b

21.9

2.4

140

15.8  a

18.3  b

55.2  ab

134278  a

40.5  a

21.3

2.4

200

14.2 ab

18.6  b

55.7  ab

113840  ab

40.3  a

21.2

2.8

140

7.6  c

21.6  a

53.0  c

71296  b

38.4  b

21.6

2.8

200

9.2  bc

21.8  a

53.5  bc

109005  ab

38.6  ab

21.7

 

2019 Irrigated

Maturity Group

Seeding Rate x1,000

Yield (bu/A)

Harvest Moisture (%)

Test Weight (lb/bu)

Final Population (plants/acre)

Grain Protein (%)

Grain Oil (%)

1.9

140

14.0  b

18.0  b

55.9  a

158369

37.8  c

21.2 ab

1.9

200

19.9 ab

17.9  b

55.9  a

171507

37.7  c

21.2 ab

2.4

140

26.3  a

17.9  b

55.4  a

100712

40.0  a

20.9 ab

2.4

200

24.1  a

18.3  b

55.6  a

165627

40.7  a

20.8  b

2.8

140

13.3  b

24.2  a

51.7  b

118371

38.6  b

21.2  a

2.8

200

16.8  b

24.6  a

51.4  b

150642

38.9  b

21.0 ab

 

Overall Research Conclusions

  1. Moisture is a big factor that governs the success of double crop soybeans. In particular, soil moisture at the time of planting and during grain fill can be very influential in the success of the double crop.
  2. Double crop soybeans are inexpensive to plant and manage, and can increase profitability for a particular field. But, the timing and details of the management practices are important. Winter barley provides a 7-14 day earlier planting window for soybeans compared to winter wheat. It’s also critical to select appropriate soybean seeding rates, maturity groups and seed as soon as possible after barley harvest.
  3. Choosing soybean varieties that mature earlier than the full season varieties for the area is important to avoid frost damage in the fall, delayed harvest, and high moisture soybeans. Our research suggests that at least 0.5 group rating less than typical full season soybeans may be optimal.
  4. Through this project and others in Dr. Singh’s lab (Siler 2020), it’s apparent that higher seeding rates should be used for late planting of soybeans, with a target of at least 100,000 plants per acre for achieving optimal yields and avoiding short plants that present harvest challenges.

Farmer Partnership Conclusions

Overall, farmers had mixed success with growing soybeans after winter barley. Below are some of our key conclusions from this partnership:

  • Water availability is a major factor, both at planting and during flowering and grain fill. Late planted soybeans need to emerge as fast as possible, so soil moisture is critical at planting. Additionally, soybeans need moisture during grain fill, so late summer rainfall is critical. Irrigation can allow for much more reliable double cropping.
  • Management factors and timeliness are important. Choosing barley allows for earlier soybean planting compared to wheat, but only if the farmer is ready to plant as soon as possible after the barley is harvested. Soybean maturity group is also an important choice to avoid frost damage in the fall, which leads to yield and quality loss, delayed harvest, and high moisture soybeans at harvest.
  • When growers were asked what yields would be necessary from the double crop soybeans to make it worthwhile and profitable, 15 bushels per acre consistently came up as a threshold.
Participation Summary
7 Farmers participating in research

Educational & Outreach Activities

8 Consultations
4 On-farm demonstrations
4 Online trainings
2 Published press articles, newsletters
4 Tours
6 Webinars / talks / presentations
5 Workshop field days
2 Other educational activities: MSU Small Grains for Brewing and Distilling Virtual Happy Hour in Fall and Winter 2020/2021.
Field videos in 2020 to replace in person field days.

Participation Summary:

250 Farmers
100 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Results of these trials have been presented at the AMBA BIC conference, and will be presented at the Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference and other conferences / meetings that allow. We will also be creating a report that will be distributed through our listserv and social media, and posted to our website.  Field days were held at KBS in June and November of 2018, and June and September of 2019. The early field days highlighted the plans for the project, and the later field days showed the field trials.  

With the COVID pandemic in 2020, education activities were limited to virtual events, which included agronomy themed events through MSU Extension, MSU Virtual Happy Hour Series, Industry webinars (Origin Malt and Independent Barley and Malt), field video recordings, newspaper articles (e.g. Farmer’s Exchange), and MSU Extension publications. We also are planning to submit a manuscript with research results to the journal Crop, Forage and Turfgrass Management. 

After the project was initiated, we’ve developed a new relationship with Eric Richer with Ohio State University Extension – Fulton County (https://fulton.osu.edu/people/eric-richer), who is working with a number of farmers to evaluate double cropping after winter barley in northern Ohio. We invited Eric to join and present at our Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference in Traverse City, MI, and have continued to develop that relationship to learn together. We’ve also initiated a relationship with Dr. Tim Boring, Vice President of the Michigan Agribusiness Association (https://miagbiz.org/index.php/about/staff). Dr. Boring is a leader related to innovative agricultural practices in Michigan, including implementing many trials on his own family farms, and leading innovation groups and networks such as the annual Underground Innovations Conferences in Frankenmuth, MI (Virtual 2021) 

Origin Malt from Marysville, OH, and Independent Barley & Malt (which is being rebranded currently) from Battle Creek, MI, have continued to be strategic partners both on research and education. Origin, in particular, has been purchasing barley from farmers for the past couple of years, and double cropping soybeans is a key portion of profitability for those farmers. Dr. Wilke has been participating in a number of interactions (webinars, phone calls) with farmers that grow for Origin, helping assist with barley production as well as cropping system questions. 

Learning Outcomes

7 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key changes:
  • Confirmed ability to plant soybeans after winter barley, even in mid-Michigan

  • Realized that the timing of getting soybeans planted ASAP after harvest can be difficult to accomplish in a timely manner

  • Improved understanding of what maturity groups can be grown after winter barley in different areas

  • Experience with relay intercropping, which was not successful in the one farm that tried it

  • Increased excitement about the possibility to utilize this system

Project Outcomes

7 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
2 Grants received that built upon this project
4 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

Southern Michigan is usually not considered as a location where double cropping is possible, except in rare cases in the far southern portion of the state where soybeans or vegetable crops are planted after wheat. Winter barley is harvested approximately 10 days prior to wheat, which can make a big difference in the ability to double crop soybeans or dry beans after the cereal grain crop.

After one year, this project has demonstrated that double cropping after winter barley is possible in multiple locations across Michigan, including Bay County which is in mid-Michigan. Yields ranged from 25 - 45 bushels across participating farms and research plots. Furthermore, we are helping to narrow in on what soybean maturity groups are best suited for double cropping; 1.9 and 2.4 maturities matured prior to killing frost, but not 2.8 maturity soybeans.

The ability to double crop provides for increased production per acre, more profit potential per acre, and living plants growing in the field in the summer following wheat harvest. The extra profit potential with the double crop helps to minimize the economic risk of growing malting barley, which can be profitable if quality barley is produced, but unprofitable if it cannot be sold for malting quality.

Following are some key conclusions from core research efforts and farmer partner observations.

Overall Research Conclusions

  1. Moisture is a big factor that governs the success of double crop soybeans. In particular, soil moisture at the time of planting and during grain fill can be very influential in the success of the double crop.
  2. Double crop soybeans are inexpensive to plant and manage, and can increase profitability for a particular field. But, the timing and details of the management practices are important. Winter barley provides a 7-14 day earlier planting window for soybeans compared to winter wheat. It’s also critical to select appropriate soybean seeding rates, maturity groups and seed as soon as possible after barley harvest.
  3. Choosing soybean varieties that mature earlier than the full season varieties for the area is important to avoid frost damage in the fall, delayed harvest, and high moisture soybeans. Our research suggests that at least 0.5 group rating less than typical full season soybeans may be optimal.
  4. Through this project and others in Dr. Singh’s lab (Siler 2020), it’s apparent that higher seeding rates should be used for late planting of soybeans, with a target of at least 100,000 plants per acre for achieving optimal yields and avoiding short plants that present harvest challenges.

Farmer Partnership Conclusions

Overall, farmers had mixed success with growing soybeans after winter barley. Below are some of our key conclusions from this partnership:

  • Water availability is a major factor, both at planting and during flowering and grain fill. Late planted soybeans need to emerge as fast as possible, so soil moisture is critical at planting. Additionally, soybeans need moisture during grain fill, so late summer rainfall is critical. Irrigation can allow for much more reliable double cropping.
  • Management factors and timeliness are important. Choosing barley allows for earlier soybean planting compared to wheat, but only if the farmer is ready to plant as soon as possible after the barley is harvested. Soybean maturity group is also an important choice to avoid frost damage in the fall, which leads to yield and quality loss, delayed harvest, and high moisture soybeans at harvest.
  • When growers were asked what yields would be necessary from the double crop soybeans to make it worthwhile and profitable, 15 bushels per acre consistently came up as a threshold.

This project has in part led to other funded projects, including work on winter barley hardiness funded through the Michigan Craft Beverage Council, winter barley agronomy and disease control (MI Craft Beverage Council) and winter barley variety evaluations (American Malting Barley Association). We've also started a partnership with the University of Minnesota to grow out breeding lines of winter barley for evaluation in Michigan as well as Minnesota.

Next Steps

There are two primary areas of research that we are considering as a next step to evaluate and/or evaluate double cropping after winter barley. These include:

  1. The effect of soybean seed priming on emergence when planted into dry soils. This could involve soaking the seed in water before planting in order to allow for soybean establishment in the presence of dry soil conditions.
  2. Evaluate soil health, pest and disease outcomes of double cropping systems, particularly when compared to fallow and cover cropping activities. Our hypothesis is that double cropping soybeans may reduce soil health compared to cover crops potentially grown at the same time, and may also lead to persistence of pests and diseases (e.g. soybean cyst nematode) that are specific to soybeans.
Success stories:

Much to our surprise, a farmer in mid Michigan planted soybeans on June 5th (1.1 maturity group) after winter barley, and yielded 26 bushels per acre without irrigation, including reaching maturity prior to the first killing frost. We did not expect to be able to double crop as far north as mid-Michigan, but only in southern Michigan, so this was a great surprise.

All growers confirmed that winter barley was harvested 1-2 weeks earlier than winter wheat, which is critical for the potential success of double crop soybeans.

A southern Michigan grower that has irrigation grew at least 35 bushels/acre of soybeans after barley in consecutive years.

We also experienced yields of 40-45 bushels per acre of soybeans in the research trials at the Kellogg Biological Station, after harvesting 75 bushels per acre of high quality barley, and irrigation made little difference in the yield. These yields clearly make it a profitable endeavor to grow this double crop sequence.

Recommendations:

 

  1. Moisture is a big factor that governs the success of double crop soybeans. In particular, soil moisture at the time of planting and during grain fill can be very influential in the success of the double crop.
  2. Double crop soybeans are inexpensive to plant and manage, and can increase profitability for a particular field. But, the timing and details of the management practices are important. Winter barley provides a 7-14 day earlier planting window for soybeans compared to winter wheat. It’s also critical to select appropriate soybean seeding rates, maturity groups and seed as soon as possible after barley harvest.
  3. Choosing soybean varieties that mature earlier than the full season varieties for the area is important to avoid frost damage in the fall, delayed harvest, and high moisture soybeans. Our research suggests that at least 0.5 group rating less than typical full season soybeans may be optimal.
  4. Through this project and others in Dr. Singh’s lab (Siler 2020), it’s apparent that higher seeding rates should be used for late planting of soybeans, with a target of at least 100,000 plants per acre for achieving optimal yields and avoiding short plants that present harvest challenges.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.