Submitted to: Advances in Soil Science
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/24/2008
Publication Date: 12/11/2009
Citation: Johnson, J.M., Papiernik, S.K., Mikha, M.M., Spokas, K.A., Tomer, M.D., Weyers, S.L. 2009. Soil Processes and Residue Harvest Management. In: Lal, R., Stewart, B.A., editors. Soil Quality and Biofuel Production. Advances in Soil Science. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. p. 1-44.
Interpretive Summary: Finite oil reserves, rapidly rising energy costs and increasing knowledge and concern about global climate change are driving changes in energy form and use. One of the expanding sources is the use of non-food plant materials. Examples of non-food plant materials are crop straws, corn cobs, grasses such as switchgrass, and trees. These materials can be used to make ethanol and/or be used as a substitute for natural gas or coal. This review summarizes the risks to soil properties that may occur without careful planning and harvest management. This review also discusses options that can prevent or minimize environmental risks related to harvesting non-food plant material. Impact: This information will educate scientists, industry, producers and the general public including policy-makers of the benefits and risks associated with plant-based energy. As a society, we need to conserve energy and resources. In addition, we need to find ways to increase long-term carbon storage in soil, protect the soil and water resource while providing food, feed, fiber and fuel for the world.
Technical Abstract: We are on the precipice of an energy revolution changing from a fossil fuel paradigm to one based on mixed renewable energy platforms. The drivers behind this change include finite petroleum reserves; volatility in the price of fossil fuels, especially crude oil and natural gas; and concerns about greenhouse gas (GHG) emission and related climate change. Harvesting crop non-grain biomass also referred to as crop residue initiates a cascade of interrelated biological, chemical and physical soil processes. Based on the compiled information in this review, excess harvesting may reduce micro- and meso- biological activity because of reduced food supply, disrupt soil nutrient cycling by removing nutrients, water relations by reducing infiltration and increasing evaporation, increase soil erosion risk, and increase bulk density. Management strategies such as limiting residue harvest, reducing or eliminating tillage, inclusion of cover crop, utilization of living mulches, inclusion of perennial species into the rotation or landscape, and applying organic amendments (manures) can avert or minimize degradation of soil quality. Understanding the impacts of biomass harvest on soil processes will aid in developing harvest management systems that optimize potential benefits and minimize risks. [REAP Publication]