Shawn P. Conley, Soybean and Wheat Extension Specialist, Department of Agronomy, University of Wisconsin
Adding small grains (wheat, oats, spring barley, rye, triticale) into cropping systems can provide economic, soil health and conservation benefits for Wisconsin farms. For example, the diversification they add in a crop rotation can lead to better pest management by 1) interrupting insect and disease cycles and 2) increasing canopy competition that can suppress weeds earlier in the season than other crops, such as corn and soybean. Their earlier planting and mid-summer harvest can also spread out labor/equipment needs across the farm and open-up additional time for manure application and cover crop establishment.
Small grains can also serve as additional or emergency forage, provide valuable straw, or be saved and sold as cover crop seed. Winter wheat can be planted following corn silage or soybean harvest and have time to establish prior to freezing temperatures. Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has shown that adding wheat into a corn/soybean rotation improves both corn and soybean yield.
Authors: Chelsea Zegler, Dane County Educator; Daniel H. Smith and Mimi Broeske, Nutrient and Pest Management Program; John Gaska, Rodrigo Werle and Shawn Conley, Department of Agronomy; Damon Smith, Department of Plant Pathology; Bryan Jensen, Department of Entomology; Carrie Laboski, Department of Soil Science; College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension