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Title: Environmental Implications of Biomass Removal

item Hatfield, Jerry

Submitted to: Fluid Fertilizer Foundation Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/19/2007
Publication Date: 2/19/2007
Citation: Hatfield, J.L. 2007. Environmental Implications of Biomass Removal [CD-ROM]. Fluid Fertilizer Foundation Symposium Proceedings.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Biomass removal from the soil surface after harvest or as the harvest operation and then sued for energy production offers the potential for a significant energy resource. There are challenges that arise with biomass removal in cropping systems in which the crop residue has remained on the soil surface after harvest. The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the potential soil and environmental problems associated with residue removal. Residue from corn production is considered one of the largest sources of cellulosic material for energy and may account for over 60% of the biomass. If we use corn as an example then the implications can be seen for different areas of the United States. There are large amounts of nutrients removed in corn nutrients that would have to be replaced and removal of corn residue leads to decreases in soil organic matter (SOM). Decreases in SOM reduce water holding capacity and the ability of a plant to extract water during short-term water deficits. Placement of residue on the soil surface protects the surface from water and wind erosion and also moderates the extremes in soil temperature and moisture required for optimal microbial activity. The decline in SOM and extreme microclimate can lead to crusting which limits water infiltration and gas exchange. These have both an impact on crop production and environmental quality. To avoid potential environmental and crop production problems there needs to be a comprehensive assessment of the potential long-term impacts of biomass removal on the stability of United States crop production systems.