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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 #354279

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: Ten-year assessment encourages no-till for corn grain and stover harvest

item OBRYCKI, JOHN - Orise Fellow
item Kovar, John
item Karlen, Douglas
item BIRRELL, STUART - Iowa State University

Submitted to: Agricultural and Environmental Letters
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/10/2018
Publication Date: 8/16/2018
Publication URL:
Citation: Obrycki, J.F., Kovar, J.L., Karlen, D.L., Birrell, S.J. 2018. Ten-year assessment encourages no-till for corn grain and stover harvest. Agricultural and Environmental Letters. 3:1800034.

Interpretive Summary: Managing corn residues as grain yields increase, improving soil health, providing a sustainable supply of cellulosic feedstock, and increasing producer income are four interconnected research goals. This study examined 10-years of field research using chisel plow or no-tillage practices with moderate or high rates of crop residue harvest in a central Iowa USA field experiment. No-till practices increased return on investment (ROI) because of lower machinery costs. The results will be useful to producers, policymakers, conservationists, researchers, and any other group interested in tradeoffs associated with tillage and crop residue management in central IA, USA.

Technical Abstract: What tillage and stover harvest practices are best for managing corn (Zea mays L.) residue? Continuous corn grain yield response to either no-till or chisel plowing with two stover harvest rates (3.4 or 5.1 Mg ha-1 yr-1) was evaluated for ten years in central Iowa. Each tillage and stover removal combination was replicated four times. Year-to-year variation affected grain yield more than tillage practice or stover removal. Grain yields were not statistically different (p=0.33) between tillage systems. Including machinery costs made return on investment (ROI) for chisel plow and no-till equivalent even though no-till yields were numerically lower. Net stover income Mg-1 was 2 to 4 USD greater at the 3.4 versus 5.1 Mg ha-1 harvest rate because of more efficient harvesting. Among the four practices, no-till with 3.4 Mg ha-1 stover harvest met multiple goals including providing suitable corn grain yield, positive net income Mg-1 stover, and sufficient residues to protect the soil.