Submitted to: American Geophysical Union
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/12/2003
Publication Date: 12/12/2003
Citation: JOHNSON, J.M., WILHELM, W.W., HATFIELD, J.L., VOORHEES, W.B., LINDEN, D.R. IMPACT OF CORN RESIDUE REMOVAL ON CROP AND SOIL PRODUCTIVITY. CD-ROM. WASHINGTON, D.C.: AMERICAN GEOPHYSICAL UNION. 2003. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Over-reliance on imported fuels, increasing atmospheric levels of greenhouses and sustaining food production for a growing population are three of the most important problems facing society in the mid-term. The US Department of Energy and private enterprise are developing technology necessary to use high cellulose feedstock, such as crop residues, for ethanol production. Based on production levels, corn (Zea mays L.) residue has potential as a biofuel feedstock. Crop residues are a renewable and domestic fuel source, which can reduce the rate of fossil fuel use (both imported and domestic) and provide an additional farm commodity. Crop residues protect the soil from wind and water erosion, provide inputs to form soil organic matter (a critical component determining soil quality) and play a role in nutrient cycling. Crop residues impact radiation balance and energy fluxes and reduce evaporation. Therefore, the benefits of using crop residues as fuel, which removes crop residues from the field, must balance against negative environmental impacts (e.g. soil erosion), maintain soil organic matter levels and preserve or enhance productivity. All ramifications of new management practices and crop uses must be explored and evaluated fully before an industry is established. There are limited numbers of long-term studies with soil and crop responses to residue removal that range from negative to negligible. The range of crop and soil responses to crop residue removal was attributed to interactions with climate, management and soil type. Within limits, corn residue can be harvested for ethanol production to provide a renewable, domestic source of energy feedstock that reduces greenhouse gases. Removal rates must vary based on regional yield, climatic conditions and cultural practices. Agronomists are challenged to develop a protocol (tool) for recommending maximum permissible removal rates that ensure sustained soil productivity.