Out with the wheat, in with the soybeans: Double crop planting gains more attention

As the wheat is harvested in central and eastern Kansas, many farmers will follow it up by planting soybeans in the same fields, a practice known as double cropping. This year, farmers have more opportunity to cover their double-crop soybeans with insurance.

Double crop soybeans are referred to as FAC (Following Another Crop) soybeans within crop insurance. Acres that are considered FAC or “double crop” are soybeans planted after: 1. perennial hay crop harvested in the same calendar year; 2. a crop (other than a cover crop) that reached the headed or budded stage prior to termination. This is most commonly soybeans following a harvested wheat crop in our local area.

What does this change mean? Now that double cropping soybeans is an insurable practice, farmers must insure all soybeans in the approved counties in 2021 (both double crop and full season). They no longer will have the choice to insure only full season soybeans. Previously, the only option producers had for insuring double crop soybeans were through a RMA (risk management agency) approved written agreement. To apply for a written agreement, producers needed three years of production history (of double crop soybeans) in the county. This left some producers unable to cover their investments due to having fewer than three years history.

This coverage was previously only offered in six counties—Neosho, Labette, Crawford, Cherokee, Wilson and Montgomery Counties. It was expanded to include southeastern and south central counties, including Marion, McPherson, Harvey and Sedgwick Counties. It does not include Reno or Lyons Counties.

Most farmers planted their full season soybeans in May. While they can’t plant double crop beans until the wheat is harvested, they won’t want to delay, because there are final planting dates for soybeans.

According to Weston Hiebert, risk management specialist with Team Marketing Alliance, Harvey County has a final plant date of June 25, Marion and McPherson Counties use June 20 for soybeans. If producers plant double crop soybeans after this date, they are still insured, but the farmer will lose 1% of coverage per day they are planted late.

Sean Rafferty with Sedgwick/Harvey County Farm Service Agency said, as a whole, they’re seeing a trend up in subsequent plantings.

“I think it has a lot to do with the technology and the seed that’s out there,” Rafferty said. “There’s a lot of technology that’s put into those seeds, so they’re earlier planting or quicker maturing.”

For example, he said that wheat harvest used to occur around July 4, while this year, local farmers should be finished well before that.

“The technology in the actual genetics of the seeds and the farming practices have provided for a better product in a shorter amount of time, and the shorter amount of time it takes to grow wheat provides an opportunity to maybe try and get in a second crop on the same field,” Rafferty said.

So far, Michael Westerman, county executive director for McPherson Farm Service Agency, said they are seeing normal interest in double cropping.

Still, Hiebert expects more double crops planted this year, both because of the additional insurance coverage available, but also due to the increased grain prices.

“Producers see an opportunity to make some additional income, and double crop beans have gotten very popular over the last several years, especially over the last five to 10 years, it’s been a practice that has definitely been gaining traction,” Hiebert said.

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