Managing your crop residue correctly can have a large impact on how successful you are no-tilling.
Residue is critical to your soil as it reduces runoff and soil loss, conserves soil moisture, improves soil microorganism populations, increases soil organic matter and improves the soil’s hydraulic and physical properties.
Combine settings are very important to ensure residue is properly processed and distributed evenly throughout the field. You don’t want to over-process residue or it can create a blanket on the surface that may slow soil warm-up in the spring.
Many factors affect the amount of residue you’ll find in your fields, and how long it will hang around.
These factors include crop type; GMO biotech traits; carryover of residue from the previous year; the type
of residue processing on your combine; the type and timing of field
operations; and soil moisture and exposure to sunlight.
With this large variance between crops, and the impact from all the other factors, residue can vary considerably from farm to farm and from year to year. To protect soil, try to maintain residue levels so they don’t impinge on planting and/or early-season crop development.
In corn, consider using a corn head that chops up the corn-leaf residue and upper stalk parts, but leaves the rest of the stalk standing upright. This provides soil coverage for the winter, but will also hold some residue for the spring.
Standing stalks allow more sunlight to penetrate residue, warming and drying soil faster. It will also be…