Can Small Grain, Soybean Relay Intercropping Be Successful in Iowa?

Learning Farms webinar will explore intercropping

April 28, 2021, 1:23 pm | Hilary Pierce, Mark Licht

intercropping.AMES, Iowa – Succeeding with small grain, soybean relay intercropping in Iowa is the topic of an Iowa Learning Farms webinar at noon on Wednesday, May 5.

Small grain, soybean relay intercropping is the next step after using small grains for cover crops. Mark Licht, assistant professor in agronomy and cropping systems specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, will explain this practice and its benefits.

Relay intercropping is a way to extend active plant growth after corn and before soybean to achieve soil health and nutrient loss reduction benefits similar to soybean. Growth of the small grain crop is extended through seed production to also provide economic value, which is a missed opportunity when small grains are used solely as a cover crop.  

Small grain seed production can be used for livestock feed rations and niche food markets. While soybean and wheat production considered individually may be slightly lower compared to optimized sole crop production, a relay intercropping system results in greater land use equivalency.

“Relay intercropping is a system that has potential to be used across Iowa in an effort to diversify and provide resiliency to cropping systems,” said Licht. “While relay intercropping can be riskier, using a relay intercropping system can diversify farm income while providing soil health and nutrient loss reduction benefits.”

Licht’s research focuses on corn and soybean production systems and ways to incorporate conservation practices into those systems.

Webinar Access Instructions

To participate in the live webinar, shortly before noon on May 5:

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit has been applied for, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the CEU will be provided at the end of the live webinar.


Original photo: Soybean growth following small grain harvest in a relay intercropping system.

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