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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Soil, Water & Air Resources Research

Title: Multi-location corn stover harvest effects on crop yields and nutrient removal)

item Karlen, Douglas - Doug
item Birrell, Stuart
item Johnson, Jane
item Osborne, Shannon
item Schumacher, Thomas
item Varvel, Gary
item Ferguson, Richard
item Novak, Jeffrey - Jeff
item Fredrick, James
item Baker, John
item Lamb, John
item Adler, Paul
item Roth, Greg
item Nafziger, Emerson

Submitted to: BioEnergy Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/10/2014
Publication Date: 2/7/2014
Citation: Karlen, D.L., Birrell, S.J., Johnson, J.M., Osborne, S.L., Schumacher, T.E., Varvel, G.E., Ferguson, R.B., Novak, J.M., Fredrick, J.R., Baker, J.M., Lamb, J.A., Adler, P.R., Roth, G.W., Nafziger, E.D. 2014. Multi-location corn stover harvest effects on crop yields and nutrient removal. BioEnergy Research. 7:528-539.

Interpretive Summary: The need for information regarding potential effects of harvesting crop biomass as feedstock to meet mandated Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requirements for advanced biofuels is increasing exponentially as the 15 billion gallon ceiling for grain-based fuels and 2022 deadline approach. A multi-location regional partnership consisting of Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists, university extension and research faculty from several institutions affiliated with the Sun Grant Association, and engineers from the Department of Energy (DOE) Idaho National Laboratory (INL) was formed in 2008. The Sun Grant Regional Partnership (SGRP) collected replicated field data quantifying grain and stover (the above ground plant parts remaining after harvesting the grain) yields as well as the amount of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) removed when harvesting a moderate or high amount of the stover at 36 locations across the U.S. New and existing research studies provide one of the most extensive field validation datasets available to confirm the sustainable amount of corn stover available for advanced biofuel production. Average corn grain yields ranged from 5.0 to 12.0 Mg ha-1 (80 to 192 bushels per acre) and were highest in the center portion of the Corn Belt. Stover removal rates averaged 3.9 and 7.2 metric tons per hectare which is equivalent to 2.24 times the amount in tons per acre (1.7 and 3.2 tons per acre). Harvesting stover increased N, P, and K removal by 24, 2.7, and 31 kilograms per hectare which is equivalent to 1.121 times the amount in pounds per acre (22, 2.4, and 28 pounds per acre) at the moderate harvest rate or 47, 5.5, and 62 kilograms per hectare which is equivalent to 1.121 times the amount in pounds per acre (42, 4.9, and 55 pounds per acre) at the high harvest rate. This information will be useful to scientists, conservationists, farmers and industries planning to use corn stover for producing bioenergy or other bio-products.

Technical Abstract: Corn (Zea mays, L.) stover was identified as an important feedstock for cellulosic bioenergy production because of the extensive area upon which the crop is already grown. Our objective is to summarize more than 200 site-years of field research conducted across the U.S.A. to determine quantities and locations where stover could be sustainably harvested. Grain and stover yield from 36 studies as well as N, P, and K removal from 28 studies are summarized for nine longitude and six latitude bands, two tillage practices (conventional vs no-tillage), two stover-harvest methods (machine vs calculated), and two crop rotations {continuous maize (corn) vs corn/soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.]}. Zero, moderate, and high stover removal rates were evaluated. Mean grain yields ranged from 5.0 to 12.0 Mg ha-1 (80 to 192 bu ac-1). Harvesting an average of 3.9 or 7.2 Mg ha-1 (1.7 or 3.2 tons ac-1) of the corn stover increased grain yield slightly at 57 and 51% of the research sites, respectively. Average no-till grain yields were significantly lower than with conventional tillage when stover was not harvested, but equivalent when it was. N, P, and K removal were increased by 24, 2.7, and 31 kg ha-1, respectively, by moderate stover harvest and by 47, 5.5, and 62 kg ha-1 by high-removal rates. We suggest using this data to verify simulation modeling and available corn stover feedstock projections, but not for site-specific stover harvest decisions.

Last Modified: 05/25/2017
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