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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Soil, Water & Air Resources Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #346481

Research Project: Managing Carbon and Nutrients in Midwestern U.S. Agroecosystems for Enhanced Soil Health and Environmental Quality

Location: Soil, Water & Air Resources Research

Title: Is corn stover harvest predictable using farm operation, technology, and management variables?

item OBRYCKI, JOHN - Orise Fellow
item Karlen, Douglas

Submitted to: Agronomy Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/5/2018
Publication Date: 3/1/2018
Publication URL:
Citation: Obrycki, J.F., Karlen, D.L. 2018. Is corn stover harvest predictable using farm operation, technology, and management variables? Agronomy Journal. 110:749–757.

Interpretive Summary: Site selection for second generation ethanol or bio-product production facilities requires assurance of available cellulosic feedstock supplies, but very little is known about the management practices used on farms where crop residues are and are not harvested. Using an Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) dataset, we found that only 6.3% of all corn operations were harvesting corn stover in 2010 and that there were no identifiable differences between the two groups. An ARMS update will be released in 2018, which when compared with this information, will be useful for those deciding where to locate biomass conversion facilities, researchers, and producers.

Technical Abstract: Crop residue management, provision of animal feed or bedding, and increased income potential are some reasons for harvesting corn (Zea mays L.) stover. Reasons for not doing so are that crop residue is essential for restoring soil organic matter, protecting against wind and water erosion, and cycling plant nutrients. Bioenergy market development may increase the number of producers harvesting corn stover. Can farming practice data predict the likelihood for harvesting corn stover at a national scale? Farm operation, technology, and management variables from the 2010 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) of U.S. corn growers were compared between operations that removed corn residues and those that did not. Nationwide, crop residues were removed from approximately 6.3% of all corn operations, indicating stover harvest was not a common practice in 2010. Factors increasing the likelihood for stover harvest included producing feed corn (11% of all producers growing feed corn), managing crop residues for pest control (20% of all producers who burned or removed residue for pest management), and farmland ownership (9% of all owned acres). Adoption of advanced technology and conservation practices were similar among both groups. Excessive residue removal can increase soil degradation. Both groups had erosion control adoption rates of =10%, which may provide an additional disincentive to harvest stover. Overall, the evaluated variables were similar between producers that did and did not harvest stover. This assessment provides a 2010 national baseline that can be used for future evaluations as bioenergy and bio-product markets develop.