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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SOIL AND CROP MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS FOR IMPROVED NATURAL RESOURCE QUALITY AND EFFICIENCY

Location: North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory

Title: Corn residue removal impact on soil aggregates in a no-till corn/soybean rotation

Authors
item Hammerbeck, Amber -
item Stetson, Sarah
item Osborne, Shannon
item Schumacher, Thomas -
item Pikul, Joseph -

Submitted to: Soil Science Society of America Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 9, 2012
Publication Date: May 11, 2012
Citation: Hammerbeck, A., Stetson, S.J., Osborne, S.L., Schumacher, T., Pikul, J.L. 2012. Corn residue removal impact on soil aggregates in a no-till corn/soybean rotation. Soil Science Society of America Journal. DOI: 10.2136/sssaj2011.0421.

Interpretive Summary: Concerned producers are asking questions pertaining to what impacts removing residue will have on the following crop (short-term) and the effects this practice has on soil quality (long-term). To address these concerns, a field study was established in eastern South Dakota in 2000 using no-till soil management within a two-year corn/soybean rotation. The objective of this study was to examine the effects of three residue removal treatments of low, medium, and high on soil quality characteristics. Following four complete rotational cycles when residue was removed from the soil surface there was a consistent decrease in the amount of soil organic matter and all fractions of particulate organic matter regardless of aggregate size class, indicating a possible decrease in soil quality. This decrease in organic matter levels could be an indication of the potential further degradation of the soil structure as indicated by shift in dry aggregate size distribution between the different residue removal treatments. Within this study removal of corn residue had a negative impact on the soil physical and chemical properties measured; potentially illustrating the importance of crop residue to maintain our soil resource, additional research is needed to incorporate other soil chemical and biological indicated before recommendations can be made.

Technical Abstract: Many questions have surfaced regarding the removal of corn residue for use in the biofuels industry. Concerned producers are asking questions pertaining to what impacts removing residue will have on the following crop (short-term) and the effects this practice has on soil quality (long-term). To address these concerns, a field study was established in eastern South Dakota in 2000 using no-till soil management within a two-year corn (Zea mays L.)/soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merrill] rotation. The objective of this study was to examine the effects of three residue removal treatments of low (corn harvested for grain; all residues remain on soil surface), medium (corn harvested for grain; residue raked, baled and removed), and high (above ground corn biomass and grain removed) on soil quality, measured through particulate organic matter (POM), soil organic matter (SOM), wet aggregate stability (WAS) and dry aggregate size distribution (DASD). Following four complete rotational cycles when residue was removed from the soil surface there was a consistent decrease in the amount of SOM and all fractions of POM regardless of aggregate size class, indicating a possible decrease in soil quality. This was further indicated by the near doubling of the erodible fraction (EF) in the high removal treatment compared to the low removal treatment. This decrease in organic matter levels could be an indication of the potential further degradation of the soil structure as indicated by shift in dry aggregate size distribution between the different residue removal treatments. Within this study removal of corn residue had a negative impact on the soil physical and chemical properties measured; potentially illustrating the importance of crop residue to maintain our soil resource, additional research is needed to incorporate other soil chemical and biological indicated before recommendations can be made.

Last Modified: 10/30/2014