What’s all the fuss about crop residue?

December 28, 2016


Chopping corn rolls, stalk stompers, vertical tillage tools, cover crops, mulching rippers, mulching finishers, residue managers. What are all these tools about?


In today’s high-yielding environment, through literally every field operation from the time the farmer rolls the combine out of the shed in the fall to when he puts the planter away in the spring, he must keep this in mind: how it impacts his ability to process the residue from last year’s crop.


The corn plant produces a total quantity of bulk material made up of leaf material, stalk, cob and grain. Harvesting equipment is designed to separate the produced grain from the plant material so the grain can be hauled off from the field, leaving only the plant material.


The corn plant is typically somewhere in the range of 55% grain weight and 45% plant residue. As the yields of corn varieties have increased over the years, so has the weight of the residue that it leaves behind. To put that into pounds, as yields have increased from 150 bushels to 250 bushels per acre, pounds of residue have increased from roughly 6,800# to 11,500# per acre.


This residue needs to be managed and processed so it won’t have a detrimental effect on next year’s crop. Harboring pests or disease, tying up nutrients, allelopathic effect, potential erosion and the cooling effect of the soils are just a few of the considerations a farmer must make when developing a residue management plan for his farm operation.


There isn’t one single residue management plan that is the best choice for all fields and soil types. There’s a need for varying residue management plans from operation to operation, or even farm to farm within larger operations.


So what does all of this mean? It means that farmers are constantly trying to become more efficient around how they manage residue in their fields. The challenge is that many times their success in effectively reducing the negative impact of residue, hence, raising the yield potential of this year’s crop, also increases the potential of additional residue needing to be processed the following year.


With this in mind, a tillage program that is just getting by today in terms of its ability to process residue, will soon become inadequate tomorrow. Farmers must continually recreate or tweak what they are doing today, to reduce the impact of this year’s successful crop  from reducing potential of next year’s crop.


Article by Gregg Pearson. Gregg is a Sales Consultant and Application Sales Specialist at Holland’s Princeton location. He is also a Certified Crop Adviser. You can reach Gregg by email at gpearson@hollandandsons.com

john deere 2230fh being pulled by a 9rx