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Be careful with cornstalk harvest

October 31, 2008
Wayne Schoper Brown/Nicollet Extension Educator

After the corn harvest complete, the next step is to do something with the corn stalk residue is. In most fields, corn stalk residue remaining after grain harvest is incorporated into the soil with tillage or is left on the soil surface. Some corn producers have been selling their corn stalks by baling them and selling them to livestock producers for use as bedding. Another future possibility is the production of ethanol from corn stalk residue. However, we do know that soil productivity (synonymous with soil carbon) will be reduced if all corn residue in a field is harvested regularly and there is not another source of carbon being returned to the soil to replace the carbon removed with the crop residue. Good sources of carbon include: a) manure; b) bi-products from industrial processes such as ash; and c) winter cover crops. Increased fertilization in fields where residue is harvested will help replace some of the nutrients removed with the residue, but it will not compensate for the lost carbon. In addition, nitrogen fertilizer rates in continuous corn should actually be reduced following corn residue harvest.



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