By Chris Dietrich
Intercropping soybeans with corn has huge benefits. Here’s what I’ve found.
1. It provides another use for soybeans: 86 million acres of corn with soybeans at 1.6 bushels of soybeans per acre would take 137.6 million bushels off the market.
2. There is less soil erosion due to less rain hitting the ground because of soybeans growing.
3. Less water is needed to get the same yield.
4. Soybeans produce non-leachable nitrogen, which would be available either to the corn or the next crop.
5. It improves soil tilth (which can be one-fifth the cost of tilling). The ground should be 50% soil, 25% air and 25% water.
6. The ground should be able to take more water.
7. Decomposing soybeans produce more biologically active carbon, which is what holds water. I got 2,000 pounds of carbon per acre. That is a water holding capacity of either 1,000 gallons or 1,750 gallons per acre.
8. It has a greater yield potential the second year.
9. There are fewer weeds, because soybeans will canopy the ground much more quickly than corn.
10. It needs no cultivating.
11. It increases organic matter.
12. Each 6-acre parcel, at 2,000 pounds of carbon per acre, takes the carbon out of the air that one person creates by living. Eighty-six million acres of corn with soybeans with 2,000 pounds of carbon per acre is equal to the carbon that 14.33 million living people put into the air each year.
Dietrich, a farmer, writes from Elmore, Ohio.