Wheat School: Measuring the payback of wheat in the rotation

An overhead look at long term rotation trials at Ridgetown College, University of Guelph

Add wheat to your crop rotation and it will increase corn and soybean yields, put more money in your pocket, improve soil health, and make your soil more resilient.

That’s a big, bold statement but University of Guelph-Ridgetown professor Dave Hooker can prove it. All the data comes from a 25 year long-term tillage and crop rotation study located at Ridgetown College. On this episode of RealAgriculture’s Wheat School, Hooker joins our Bernard Tobin at the recent SouthWest Ag Conference (SWAC) to discuss what he and his colleagues have leaned from the trials.

Quite simply, Hooker says, “Rotation rules.” The impact of diversity — adding wheat and red clover to a corn/soybean rotation has increased corn yields by 17 bu/ac on plowed ground over the duration of the trial. For no-till corn, rotation adds 6 bu/ac.

The trial, which was established by Doug Young in 1995 and maintained over the years by technicians Scott Jay, Jonathan Brinkman, and Ken VanRaay, includes seven difference rotations.

Wheat has a similar impact on soybean yield, too. When wheat is part of the rotation soybeans yield an additional four to six bushels. (Story continues after the video.)

But the story of crop rotation doesn’t end there. In the interview, Hooker discusses how more diverse rotations have a positive impact on corn’s ability to utilize nitrogen and how it can make soils more resilient and better able to tolerate environmental stresses such as heat and drought.

Hooker also makes his “big picture” pitch for why much of the yield and performance improvement of all the crops in the rotation should be accrued to the wheat balance sheet, making it a much more economically viable crop for farmers to grow and invest in for the sustainability of their soils.

Click here for more Wheat School episodes, and here for more coverage of the SouthWest Agricultural Conference.

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