Adding winter wheat into your corn-soybean rotation has many benefits.

The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) and the wheat seed industry in Illinois are embarking on an effort to improve double-crop soybean yields in southern Illinois, while showing that the double-crop rotation can also be planted farther north into Illinois.

We received an email from a farmer asking if he could “double-crop soybeans in Warren County, Illinois.” I responded that double-cropping soybeans in Warren County would have a strong possibility of success. Growers in northern Indiana and Ohio are already doing it, as well as in Michigan and Ontario—way outside the traditional double-crop region along the Ohio River.

Growers should take advantage of the early wheat harvest system that enables them to plant double-crop soybeans much earlier. The early wheat harvest system includes planting an early or ultra-early wheat variety that matures quicker and harvesting at 20 – 22 percent moisture. This allows soybeans to be planted 10 to 14 days earlier, gaining an extra 1 bushel per acre per day, or 10 to 14 bushels per acre.

Stayed tuned:  ISA and the wheat seed industry in Illinois will be kicking off a project to evaluate the potential of moving the double-crop system farther north in Illinois by adopting the early wheat harvest system. We will be setting up research sites in Marion, Effingham, Wyoming and Walnut, Illinois, planting wheat this fall and soybeans next summer. We will plan to host a field day at each site next summer to talk about the opportunities of double-cropping and how to manage the system.

Why, you might ask, would you want to plant winter wheat when the corn-soybean rotation or corn-corn-soybean rotation is working well for you? Well, adding wheat into your rotation provides some new opportunities and additional benefits:

  • Ability to adopt a ‘different’ range of cover crops, including N-fixing legumes
  • Adding revenue from selling straw
  • Adding wheat to the rotation can break corn and soybean disease cycles
  • Improving soil health and water quality
  • Improving weed control by suppressing winter annual weeds and disrupting weed cycles
  • Increasing corn and soybean yields by including a third crop in the rotation
  • Increasing revenue by harvesting three crops over two years instead of just two
  • Introducing the possibility of grazing winter wheat as forage over winter and spring
  • Reducing erosion and nutrient loss during April, May and June
  • Suppressing soybean cyst nematode
  • Wheat prices are currently making a good comeback, making the crop competitive with corn at the 100-bushel level
  • Wheat varieties available today can yield over 100 bushels when the weather cooperates and good management practices are observed
  • Winter wheat acts as a cash cover crop protecting the soil, suppressing winter annual weeds and scavenging up nutrients that could end up in surface water

Over the next 18 to 24 months we will be providing some updates on the progress and results from the project “Improving double-crop soybean yield by adopting the early wheat harvest system.”

Soybean agronomist Daniel Davidson, Ph.D. posts blogs on agronomy-related topics. Feel free to contact him at or ring him at 402-649-5919.

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About the Author: Dan Davidson

Soybean agronomist Daniel Davidson, Ph.D., posts blogs on topics related to soybean agronomy. Feel free to contact him at or ring him at 402-649-5919.