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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Pendleton, Oregon » Columbia Plateau Conservation Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #111354


item Douglas Jr, Clyde
item Albrecht, Stephan

Submitted to: Columbia Basin Agricultural Research Annual Report
Publication Type: Experiment Station
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/1/2000
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Producers can increase their income by removing crop residues from agricultural fields and selling them off-farm. However, there is concern that residue removal will decrease soil organic matter (SOM) and nutrients. We need to know the relative effects of burning, baling or non- removal of crop residues on SOM and nutrients. This study found that only annual cropped fields producing 14-Mg residue/ha (6.3 tons/ac) could be burned and retain enough residue to keep SOM stable. Only annual cropped fields producing 9-Mg residue/ha (4 tons/ac) could be baled and have enough residue left for SOM stability. Wheat/fallow rotations should never have residue removed from the field. Nitrogen and sulfur loss is similar for burning and baling but baling removes more phosphorus and potassium. The best scenario is to leave all residues on the field. However, if you must remove residues, baling is better than burning.

Technical Abstract: Producers are increasingly baling and selling crop residues for economic purposes. How does baling compare to burning, or non-removal of residues, for soil organic matter (SOM) and nutrient retention? Residue distribution behind 21 combines was measured in 15 fields over two years. Before each combine pass, two bundles of wheat were cut at ground level and removed. Thirty culms from each bundle were dissected into 10-cm (4-in) sections from ground level. Sections from each field were combined and analyzed for nutrient content. There must be 14 Mg/ha (6.3 tons/ha) or greater residue production to keep SOM stable if fields are burned. Only fields producing 9 Mg residue/ha (4 tons/ha) could be baled and have enough residue left for SOM stability, only if annual cropping is practiced. Wheat/fallow rotations should never have residue removed. The best scenario is not to remove residues. However, if residues must be removed, baling is better than burning.