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Climate Change Could Boost Area Suitable for Double Cropping of Wheat and Soybeans

Double cropping, or planting a second crop directly after harvesting the first, can bring a farmers additional income, but in the northern regions of the U.S., hard frosts traditionally prevent the planting of soybeans after harvesting winter wheat. But, because of climate change, this is changing.

Christopher Seifert and David Lobell of Stanford University have found that as a result of climate change, production from the practice of double cropping in the north of the U.S. could increase by 4-7%, the equivalent of the total crop output of the UK, by 2100. This could help offset projected declines in crop yields due to climate change.

Using weather data and crop timing models, the team found that between 1988 and 2012 up to 28% more farmland became suitable for double cropping of winter wheat and soybeans in the U.S. Looking forward, the team found that the suitable area for double cropping will increase between 126% and 239% as a result of an increase in mean temperature rather than a delay in fall freezing.

When considering changes in agricultural production, it is often asked whether a shift is considered ‘incremental’, or ‘revolutionary’. Seifert tells Environmental Research Web, “Regardless, I think the idea put forth in the study of double cropping all the way to the US–Canada border is a jarring one, because it shows just how much change a few degrees difference in mean temperatures can bring about."

The team plans to continue to study climate change and the ways that crop rotation can offset its effects – looking at corn-soybean rotation benefits for the 21st century.

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