Winter annual small grains, especially wheat and barley, are an important part of the cropping systems used in Kentucky. They are a source of early cash flow and livestock feed, and serve as cover crops to reduce soil erosion during the winter.

The early spring growth of winter annuals takes advantage of spring rains and stored soil moisture. Prompt, timely harvest permits the planting of either soybeans or grain sorghum as a second or double crop, making this cropping system profitable and widely adapted. Much of the increased acreage sown to small grains since 1967 has occurred primarily on sloping, erodible land considered marginal for continuous full-season corn and soybean production, especially with conventional tillage.

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