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Ideas for crop residue management

A new report from Pioneer Hi-Bred outlines farmers' management options for dealing with increased crop residue build-up in corn.

"In many high-yielding areas of the Corn Belt, residue buildup has become a challenge," says a release from Pioneer Hi-Bred. The company announced a collaboration with Iowa State University to "establish best practices in harvesting, storage and transportation, as well as to assure the agronomic and environmental integrity of cornfields," the statement said.

The company, along with DuPont Industrial Biosciences, also is studying future options for harvesting and using crop reside.

"We know the near-term benefits of residue removal," says Andy Heggenstaller, Pioneer agronomy research manager from Iowa. "We're now trying to learn how to take advantage of these benefits with an eye toward achieving similar long-term agronomic advantages."

DuPont has announced plans to build what it calls "one of the world's first commercial cellulosic ethanol biorefineries" in Nevada, Iowa. The plant will use "thousands of tons of stover" from nearby fields.

Research suggests say that farmers can remove 40 percent of stover "without negatively impacting soil organic matter," Heggenstaller says. "As we move forward, cellulosic ethanol production may become a common form of residue management."

Management tips

"Growers who achieve high yields per acre typically find that residue becomes difficult to manage," Heggenstaller says. "It can be a time-consuming and costly process."

Best practices for managing heavy crop residue, Pioneer experts say, include:

  • Seed selection. Study the stress emergence score on a hybird. That's based on the genetic potential for the number to establish a stand under stressful conditions, such as cold, wet soils.

    "Pioneer also assigns high-residue suitability ratings of highly suitable, suitable or poorly suited for hybrid performance in reduced-tillage systems," the company says. The rating is based on trait scores for stress emergence, northern corn leaf blight, anthracnose stalk rot, gray leaf spot and Diplodia ear rot.

  • Planter set-up and operation. Growers also should "be sure to set up and operate the planter appropriately," which can help with stand establishment in high-residue systems. "Because planter operation may vary widely with soil type and conditions, it can be helpful to consult with an area agronomist or other no-tillers in the area to determine the best equipment and practices based on needs."

  • Other tips. "Other planting tips offered by Pioneer: use row cleaners, plant slightly deeper to help overcome some of the moisture and temperature variability, and choose a planting date that allows extra drying time in heavy residue.

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