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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Management Practices to Mitigate Global Climate Change, Enhance Bio-Energy Production, Increase Soil-C Stocks & Sustain Soil Productivity...

Location: Soil Plant Nutrient Research (SPNR)

Title: Crop residue is key for sustaining maximum food production and for conservation of our biosphere

Author
item Delgado, Jorge

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: September 10, 2010
Publication Date: October 18, 2010
Citation: Delgado, J.A. 2010. Crop residue is key for sustaining maximum food production and for conservation of our biosphere. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 65:111A-116A.

Interpretive Summary: Hugh Hammond Bennett has been called the father of soil conservation. He was a national and international leader who contributed to the preservation and conservation of our natural resources. Bennett was the first Chief of the USDA Soil Conservation Service (today called the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service) and helped to develop a system of organized science-based conservation efforts for our nation. This paper provides a quick overview of some selected references and looks at some of the newest advances related to cover crops residue. Several authors have described in detail the benefits derived from improving soil quality with good management practices that increase carbon sequestration, and crop residue is at the center of improving and/or sustaining this desirable soil quality. Management of crop residue can contribute to increased nutrient cycling and crop residue also has an important role in reducing soil erosion and making high levels of production more sustainable. By selecting a crop rotation and/or management practice such as minimum tillage to reduce soil disturbance and/or increase the amount of residue returned to the soil, we can minimize erosion and increase soil organic carbon and nitrogen in the system. Crop residue is important for nutrient cycling, and the potential to cycle macronutrients and micronutrients varies with residue type. Use of isotopic chemistry and modeling has shown that N management based on crop residue has the potential to improve agricultural management systems and increase nitrogen use efficiencies, reduce N losses to the environment, and reduce N2O emissions and nitrate leaching. This is especially the case if N applications are reduced to account for greater nitrogen cycling. Crop residue management can thus be a practice that helps to mitigate climate change. Crop residue is essential for conservation of natural resources and for helping make high levels of food production more sustainable.

Technical Abstract: Crop residue is key in our efforts to move towards agricultural sustainability. This paper provides a quick overview of some selected references and looks at some of the newest advances related to cover crops. Several authors have described in detail the benefits derived from improving soil quality with good management practices that increase carbon sequestration, and crop residue is at the center of improving and/or sustaining this desirable soil quality. Management of crop residue can contribute to increased nutrient cycling and greater crop yields. Crop residue management also has an important role in reducing soil erosion. By selecting a crop rotation and/or management practice such as minimum tillage to reduce soil disturbance and/or increase the amount of residue returned to the soil, we can minimize erosion and increase soil organic carbon and nitrogen in the system. Precision Harvest of crop residue across the field, which considers the spatial potential for erosion and carbon sequestration, has been recommended as a method for managing crop residue to increase conservation effectiveness with spatial variability. Crop residue has a beneficial role in conservation and food production, and crop residue management should be an integral part of nutrient management plans.

Last Modified: 11/21/2014