Submitted to: Sustainable Soil Use from a Technical, Agronomical, Ecological and Economic Perspective
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/16/2003
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Crop residue management (CRM) in the United States has been advocated for several decades as an effective means of soil erosion control. Initially, farmers were reluctant to accept CRM practices because intensive tillage systems had served them well. They were not aware of the effects of soil erosion on long-term crop productivity. However, in the mid-80's farmers began the transition from intensive tillage to CRM systems. The driving point was associated with economics rather than soil erosion. With the use of CRM, labor requirements and fuel costs per land area were reduced. Benefits of CRM included reduced soil erosion, increased water quality of surface runoff, improved soil moisture and water infiltration, improved long-term productivity and reduced carbon dioxide release 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 and developing conservation plans. CRM systems have only been adopted on 37 percent of U.S. cropland, a figure lower than desired. Reasons for non-adoption are varied. CRM has not been demonstrated to consistently produce good economic returns for some specific soils and in certain climate and/or cropping situations. 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 toward new practices.