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Crop Residue Management

November 3, 2009

Many farmers here in PA and across the country are struggling to harvest their corn grain and soybeans. With the recent wet weather, corn and soybean harvests are being pushed farther and farther back. This makes it very hard to harvest good quality grain, bale the corn fodder, and get a cover crop planted all before manure needs to be spread, the ground freezes, and christmas is here. In the back of one’s mind should always be the question “what can I do to make my soil better?” Managing your crop residue is a great way to help improve your soils health and to control erosion. Here are some ways to leave more crop residue on the soil surface:

  • follow a crop rotation that includes crops with high residue, like corn grain
  • wait till spring to do any form of tillage. 1. tillage buries crop residue 2. tillage makes the soil vulnerable to erosion
  • reduce the number of tillage passes made and set chisels and disks to work shallower, so as not to bury the residue
  • when high residue crops aren’t used plant a cover crop, like wheat or rye
  • STOP using the moldboard plow
  • when tilling drive slower, this decreases the amount of “thrown” soil and covered residue

Having crop residue on the soil surface is important, but the amount of crop residue present is even more important. You should aim to have at least 60% crop residue, but more is definitely better in this situation. To accurately determine crop residue follow these steps:

  1. Use any line that is divided into 100 equal parts. They make ropes with wooden beads or cable transect lines for residue counting. But a 50 foot tape will work perfectly, just as long as the 6in and the foot measurements are marked.
  2. Stretch this line diagonally across the crop rows.
  3. Walk along this line and count the number of marks that have crop residue underneath the leading edge of the mark
  4. Determine the percent residue cover
  5. Repeat this process at least three times in different areas of the field
Examples of various levels of crop residue

Examples of various levels of crop residue

One Comment leave one →
  1. jeff Graybill permalink
    December 1, 2009 12:43 pm

    Hey Genny,
    Nice article. I had not been to your site for a few weeks- Looks like you are up and running.

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