It's never to early to start planning, especially if you're talking about planting wheat this fall and following it next spring with soybeans.

With November 2008 soybean futures trading at $8.50 per bushel or about 50 percent above the 10-year average and wheat trading at about 75 percent above its 10-year average, there would appear to be good profit potential in double-cropping, and the strategy is bound to be popular among Southeastern growers.

Which is why planning needs to begin now, if not sooner, say two University of Georgia Extension specialists.

“Wheat seed supply is so tight that growers might not be able to get the varieties they want so they need to order their top choices as soon as possible,” says Dewey Lee, Extension small grains specialist.

“The two standard wheat varieties will be AGS 2000 and Pioneer 26R61 only because of their availability compared to the other varieties. All varieties should be treated with a fungicide to maximize yields.”

If a grower is looking for a new variety for his farm, he might try AGS 2060, says Lee. “It has exceptionally good yield potential, it's early — allowing a timely planting date when double-cropping soybeans, peanuts or cotton — and it works very well in the southeastern part of Georgia,” he says.

The next varieties Lee says he would consider would be Pioneer 26R31, acknowledging that this particular variety must be sprayed with a fungicide, and USG 3209. “USG 3209 is an older variety like AGS 2000. But across the Coastal Plain it has the second highest average yield of all the varieties we grow. Unfortunately, it also has the greatest susceptibility to Hessian fly,” he says.

Lee also would consider AGS 2031. “It has strong yields across south Georgia, but it is also susceptible to Hessian fly. Growers need to look at applying an insecticide to control Hessian fly with Pioneer 26R31 and USG 3209.”

Farmers can check out the University of Georgia's official variety trial results at http://www.swvt.uga.edu/.

University of Georgia Extension agronomist John Woodruff advises that growers concentrate on several areas when making plans for 2008 double-crop soybeans, beginning with getting a soil test for both wheat and soybeans.

“Take care of lime, phosphorus and potassium needs this fall,” says Woodruff. “Doing so this fall will allow for quick double-crop soybean planting next May-June without delay and yield penalty. If you plan to bale the wheat straw, make sure you know how much nutrient removal is involved, and that you have a plan now to meet those needs.”

He also advises growers to complete any necessary deep soil tillage this fall ahead of planting wheat. This, he says, can have carryover benefit for 2008 soybeans if tram lines and field traffic control are set up and maintained during wheat production.

In addition, farmers should plan for no-till, strip-till or some means of reduced-tillage for 2008 soybeans following wheat. “Strip-tillage is usually the most successful way of planting double-crop soybeans. Yields will usually be improved by 10 to 15 percent if the row width can be reduced to 30 inches.

“I really like strip-till soybeans. This cultural method allows for in-row subsoiling. Most farmers have good planters for strip-tillage. As such, they tend to get much better soybean stands with this as opposed to other no-till planting methods,” he says.

Growers should start now lining up preferred double-crop soybean varieties, says Woodruff.

“Since soybean acreage is expected to expand, preferred double-crop soybean varieties will likely be in short supply,” he says. “You should be planning this fall which soybean varieties will be best for 2008, and you should be lining up seed supplies.”

Getting soybeans planted on time next May-June will require some luck with the weather, says Woodruff, but careful planning now can help with timely planting. “Consider planting some early maturing wheat if adapted and available. Spend needed time this winter for maintenance and repairs to have combines, planters and other equipment so it'll be field-ready come wheat harvest time. If soybeans have been planted consistently after the optimum period, setting up wheat planting for relay inter-planting of soybeans next May could be a way to deal with this problem,” he says.

Finally, from a marketing standpoint, Woodruff advises forward contracting 2008 soybeans now to take advantage of current high market prices. “Chances are quite high that prices won't be this good next fall. I am not a marketing expert, but my observation is that high prices serve the primary purpose of attracting production, but they don't remain high beyond a growing season unless additional problems or markets develop.

“The situation is that we have an opportunity to sell some 2008 soybeans now at a profitable price, so let's take advantage of the opportunity while it's available.”