Double cropping is a method many growers are turning to in an effort to get the most out of their land. A form of intensification, double cropping is defined as planting two different crops in the same field during a single year. Unlike using a cover crop, the growing cycle of the crops that are planted are opposite; only one crop at a time occupies the field. When the first crop’s growing season has come to an end, it’s time for the second crop to take root. Read below the benefits of double cropping and popular crop pairings in southeastern states.
Benefits of Double Cropping
Planting two different crops can offer a host of benefits. The first is obviously the added income brought in by the second crop. It adds an extra layer of income, like a safety net, for when drought, disease, pests, or market fluctuations affect the farm’s main cash crop. Additionally, adding in another crop can foil pests or diseases that favor the first crop but not the second.
Southeastern Double Cropping
A study by the USDA’s Economic Research Service found that, from 1999 to 2012, the greatest amount of double cropping was occurring in southeastern states. Warmer weather and fair amounts of rain make for the extended growing seasons required to grow two or more crops at different times in the same year. Below are some popular southeastern pairings:
Florida: In The Sunshine State, strawberries are nearly as popular as citrus; they also pair well with another red-hued fruit: watermelon. Florida strawberry farmers are getting watermelon plants started in their berry fields in the middle of the berry-picking season in late winter. By the time the berries are done, the watermelon plants are ready to take over, effectively turning the operation into a melon farm for the rest of the season, according to a Central Florida Ag News article. Other plants work well with strawberries for double cropping include cantaloupe, cucumbers, zucchini, and squash.
Georgia: Peanuts are king in Georgia, and they are a good candidate for double cropping as they are typically planted in early to mid-May and harvested in the fall. This makes winter wheat an excellent partner for farming diversification and to make the fields profitable all year long. A 2011 study by UGA showed income improvement of $60 an acre with the combination of peanuts and winter wheat.
South Carolina and North Carolina: Wheat is a popular crop in both Carolinas, and pairing it with soybeans is common. Other options for pairing include canola and corn. Some farmers rotate between all four crops, as explained in a SoutheastFarmPress.com article that focuses on multi-cropping with Canola.
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Photo courtesy of the Economic Research Service/USDA. Figure 1: Average double-cropped acreages vary by region, 1999-2012.
Note: On the map, the colors correspond to the average acres double cropped, while the labels show average double-cropping acreages as a percent of each region’s total cropland acreage. Region boundaries are derived from U.S. Geological Survey hydrologic unit code boundaries.
Source: USDA, Economic Research Service calculations made using USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) June Area Survey data from 1999-2012. Estimates are weighted with NASS-supplied survey weights.