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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SOIL AND CROP MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS TO SUSTAIN AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY IN THE NORTHERN GREAT PLAINS Title: Biomass removal: Effect on soil nutrients and productivity

Author
item Johnson, Jane

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: November 13, 2008
Publication Date: November 13, 2008
Repository URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10113/44399
Citation: Johnson, J.M. 2008. Biomass removal: Effect on soil nutrients and productivity. In: Proceedings of the North Central Extension-Industry Soil Fertility Conference, November 12-13, 2008, Des Moines, Iowa. p. 7-14.

Interpretive Summary: Interest in renewable alternatives to fossil energy has increased. There is also a growing awareness of the impact of greenhouse gas emission on global climate change. Crop biomass can be used to make liquid fuels like ethanol. They can also be used as a substitute for natural gas or coal. In the Corn Belt, corn stover and other crop straws are a likely feedstock. Long-term and short-term economic and environmental impacts (positive and negative) need to be balanced. The amount of biomass required to stay on the land to prevent loss of soil organic matter exceeds the amount needed to limit erosion. The amount of nutrient varies by crop and harvest rate. Soil tests and crop monitoring are recommended for both macro and micronutrients to avoid deficiencies. This information will educate scientists, industry, producers and the general public including policy-makers of the benefits and risks associated with plant-based energy. As a society, we need to conserve energy and resources. In addition, we need to find ways to increase long-term carbon storage in soil and protect the soil and water resources while providing food, feed, fiber and fuel for the world.

Technical Abstract: Interest in renewable alternatives to fossil energy has increased. There is also a growing awareness of the impact of greenhouse gas emission on global climate change. Crop biomass can be used to make liquid fuels like ethanol. These cellulosic materials are also potential feedstock for controlled combustion substituting for natural gas or coal. There is a wide range of potential feedstocks: trees, perennial grasses and crop non-grain biomass (or residues). Especially in the Corn Belt, corn stover and other crop straws are a likely feedstock. Long-term and short-term economic and environmental consequences (positive and negative) must be considered. Management recommendations are emerging that consider minimizing soil erosion risks, maintaining soil carbon and managing nutrients. The amount of biomass required to stay on the land to prevent loss of soil organic matter exceeds the amount needed to limit erosion. Biomass harvest removes 11 to 25 lb N, 1 to 4 lb P and 4 to 19 lbs K per ton of biomass removed depending on the crop. Soil tests and crop monitoring are recommended for both macro and micronutrients to avoid deficiencies.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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