Abstract Deep mouldoard ploughing to 0.45 m, gypsum application (5 t ha −1), and double cropping were evaluated, alone and combined, as ameliorants for a hardsetting red-brown earth (Alfisol). The double cropped treatment consisted of winter wheat ( Triticum aestivum) and a summer forage crop consisting of sudax ( Sorghum sudanese) intersown with cowpea ( Vigna unguiculata). This paper describes the effect of these treatments on crop development, yield, crop-water relations and economic returns. Crop emergence was not affected by any treatment. Mouldboard ploughing significantly increased wheat grain yield from 1.86 to 2.15 t ha −1, in 1984, but not in 1985. Yield was also increased from 5.18 to 5.68 t ha −1 as a result of gypsum addition in 1985—after no significant difference in 1984. Double cropping significantly increased yield (by 0.6 t ha −1) in 1985. Greater increases were obtained with the summer cropping phase where higher evaporative demand during the summer would have aggravated soil structural problems associated with hardsetting. Sudax-cowpea dry matter yields were increased from 13.6 to 17 t ha −1 and from 13.0 to 17.5 t ha −1 during summer 1984–1985 by gypsum and mouldboard ploughing, respectively. The higher yields are attributed to increased water storage and depletion, and reduced soil strength for the mouldboard ploughed and gypsum main treatments. No interactions were found between the main treatments, except at the end of the 1985 winter cropping phase when there was a negative interaction between mouldboard ploughing and gypsum application for dry matter, equivalent root length and yield. The yield increases associated with mouldboard ploughing did not persist beyond the second year of the experiment. Double cropping combined with mouldboard ploughing (Mb+DC) was the most profitable treatment, whereas mouldboard ploughing with gypsum (Mb+G) was the least profitable for the crops grown in this experiment.