Published on Wednesday, November 4, 2020
Harvest is wrapping up in most of our marketing area, which means it's time to start planning for next season. As we evaluate our 2020 crop, we should be thinking about nutrient management options to replace or build soil fertility. One factor that farmers often overlook when calculating fertility needs is the value in crop residue. As yields increase, so does the biomass or residue that we produce. Residue certainly poses challenges for planting and can also carry pathogens through the winter, but we can use the residue to our advantage through proper management techniques. Crop residue contains nutrients that we need to retain and return to our soils through microbial activity. Think of residue as a food source for your soil biology.
To quantify the value of our residue in a 200-bushel corn crop, let's reference the chart above. You can also find more information here. This chart shows that residue can contain 90 lb. of nitrogen, 24 lb. of P2O5, 180 lb. of K2O, and 21 lb. of sulfur. With significant nutrient values in our residue, how can we be sure that we return them to the soil? The most effective way to break down residue is by promoting soil health and biology through minimal disturbance. Improving soil health increases soil metabolism to break down residue more rapidly.
In PFR, we have tested multiple residue management products such as Res Plus and Robust®. Residue management products like these contain a combination of low rate micro- and macronutrients. These products feed the soil biology and increase microbial activity, which in turn speeds up residue breakdown.
Both Res Plus and Robust have been stamped as PFR Proven™ based on their positive ROI for three or more years. When applying residue management products in the fall, one can expect improved residue degradation and residue that is more manageable to plant into the following spring.
Chopping and sizing, or fracturing residue through mechanical means help speed up the decomposition process. In PFR, we have tested and continue to use Yetter Stalk Devastators™ to fracture the corn stalks. This fracturing allows stalks to break down more quickly. Stalk Devastators also flatten the stalks, which helps protect tires and other machinery parts that may meet a standing stalk. The Capello® Quasar Chopping Head is another PFR Proven mechanical product that chops and sizes residue into fine pieces, allowing for improved corn residue breakdown.
The Capello Quasar Chopping Head was also used at our Colfax, Iowa location this year to harvest down corn from the August 2020 Derecho wind event. Using the Capello head allowed us to more than double our harvest speed and bring more corn into the machine. This chopping head can be seen in action in the October PFR report here.
Crop residue is the change we receive in return for our soil fertility investment. It is crucial to retain and return these nutrients back into the soil for a successful season.
Author: Caleb Shoemaker
Categories: PFR, PFR Reports