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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Agroecosystem Management Research

Title: Cob component of corn residue can be used as a biofuel feedstock with little impact on soil and water conservation

item Wienhold, Brian

Submitted to: Natural Resources Research Update (NRRU)
Publication Type: Research Technical Update
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/2/2012
Publication Date: 2/2/2012
Publication URL:
Citation: Wienhold, B.J. 2012. Cob component of corn residue can be used as a biofuel feedstock with little impact on soil and water conservation. Natural Resources Research Update (NRRU). Update #278169. Available at:,

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Use of corn residue as a biofuel feedstock raises a number of concerns related to soil and water conservation. Soil compaction, increased susceptibility for wind and water erosion, increased nutrient removal, and loss of soil organic matter are potential negative affects associated with residue removal. The cob fraction of corn residue can potentially be collected during grain harvest and is produced in sufficient amounts to be a significant feedstock source. Soil erosion and runoff nutrient loss are not affected by cob removal in high production corn systems. With the exception of potassium, nutrients contained in the cob are retained and would not be available to a subsequent crop. The cob fraction of corn residue represents a feedstock that can be harvested with little potential for negatively affecting soil and water conservation. Publications contributing to the NRRU Release as shown above: Varvel, G.E. and W.W. Wilhelm. 2008. Cob biomass production in the western corn belt. BioEnergy Research. 1: 223-228. Wienhold, B.J., G.E. Varvel, and V.L. Jin. 2011. Corn cob residue carbon and nutrient dynamics during decomposition. Agron. J. 103:1192-1197. Wienhold, B.J. and J.E. Gilley. 2010. Cob removal effect on sediment and runoff nutrient loss from a silt loam soil. Agron. J. 102:1448-1452.

Last Modified: 10/15/2017
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