Letter: Farmers can use relay cropping to improve profits, conservation
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To the editor:
Producers are facing a dire need to increase production in the current market. More are also looking for ways to engage in conservation. Relay cropping may provide the solution for both of these issues.
This method of farming, which allows producers to stagger the production of two cash crops during the same growing season, can improve profits and create healthier land. To help increase its adoption, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency has added relay cropping as an insurable farming practice.
Relay cropping extends the growing season by incorporating varieties that can be grown in cooler conditions. In the Midwest, farmers commonly pair soybeans with winter wheat, rye, or other cereal grains, which often results in similar or increased yields for each individual crop. This is largely attributed to improvements in soil health and stability — a result of maintaining a living root in the soil for a longer portion of the year.
The practice can translate to measurable cost savings by reducing the need for insecticides and herbicides. The increased biodiversity of two cash crops can prevent insect infestations by creating a balanced ecosystem of predator and prey species. Increased soil cover helps suppress weed growth, and the varied planting times also disrupt pests’ growing cycles.
This is a great time to consider relay cropping. Soybeans paired with cereal grains may be covered under a written agreement. Written agreements provide coverage for insurable products with special conditions or when local rates of comparable products are unavailable. This added protection reduces the risk for producers and ensures operations implementing this beneficial practice are financially secure. Get in touch with a crop insurance agent to learn about enrolling in this coverage.
Policy associate, Center for Rural Affairs
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities.