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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Crop Residue Management in the United States

item Lindstrom, Michael
item Archer, David

Submitted to: Landbauforschung Voelkenrode
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 16, 2003
Publication Date: October 16, 2003

Interpretive Summary: Crop residue management has been advocated as a cost-effective and environmentally beneficial practice. However, adoption of crop residue management has been lower than desired. While overall adoption of crop residue management has remained relatively constant over the past ten years, adoption of no-till systems has continued to increase. A summary of the history, potential effects and factors affecting adoption of crop residue management in the U.S. is provided. The analysis provides a broad overview of crop residue management in the U.S. that will be useful to researchers and policymakers in identifying research needs and incentives needed to encourage further adoption.

Technical Abstract: Crop residue management in the United States has been advocated for several decades as an effective means of soil erosion control. Acceptance by farmers was initially slow because farmers where reluctant to change from intensive tillage systems that had served them well and the lack of understanding that soil erosion was effecting long-term crop productivity. However, in the mid-80's farmers began the transition from intensive tillage to Crop Residue Management (CRM) systems. The driving point was more associated with economics rather than soil erosion. With the use of CRM, labor requirements and fuel costs per land area where reduced. Farmers could either expand the total farm operation or explore other income opportunities. Benefits of CRM included reduced soil erosion, cleaner surface runoff, improved soil moisture and water infiltration, improved long-term productivity, and reduced release of carbon dioxide and air pollution. Farmers' willingness to leave residue on the soil surface has been greatly enhanced by the development of effective herbicides and planting or seeding equipment that is capable of handling high levels of surface residue. Government programs have strongly advocated the conversion to CRM through the eligibility of farm support programs and assistance through cost sharing in developing conservation plans. Crop Residue Management systems have only been adopted on 37 percent of U.S. cropland, a figure lower than desired. Specific soils, climate and/or cropping situations have not been demonstrated to consistently produce good economic returns. Further limiting factors include the need for additional management skills and capital investments in new equipment, economic risks involved with changing systems, and negative attitudes and perceptions against new practices.

Last Modified: 4/18/2015
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