Double cropping has received more attention lately. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently suggested that double cropping could help address concerns about food versus fuel as well as soil erosion. A Michigan State University study also concluded that double cropping and large-scale production of diverse cellulosic crops could benefit food and biofuel production and “deserve more study for widespread application.”

Cropping systems in the southern Corn Belt typically involve a winter annual cereal crop (such as wheat or rye) that can be planted in the fall following harvest of corn or soybeans. The cereal crop can be harvested in late spring or early summer of the following season. This allows the farmer to plant a shorter-season grain crop immediately after cereal harvest. The result is harvesting two crops in one growing season.

Other options include harvesting the cereal crop prior to maturity as a forage crop or killing the cereal crop early in the spring, before planting a fuller-season grain crop. The latter option is often referred to as a cover-cropping system where the cereal crop serves as a soil conservation practice and the grower does not intend to take the crop to full maturity for harvest.