Use Your Harvest To Manage Residue

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.

Managing Corn

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…

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Leverich jim

Jim Leverich

No-Till Farmer's Conservation Ag Operator Fellow for 2022, Jim Leverich is a no-till farmer near Sparta, Wis. His 1,000 acre-farm has been in his family since 1864 and no-tilled since 1984. An innovator and educator, Leverich has 35-plus years of no-till and on-farm research experience, and possesses a deep, practical understanding of what makes no-till work. For his contributions while at the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service, Leverich was named the No-Till Innovator of the Year (Research & Education category) in 2006. A talented presenter and writer, Leverich was a regular guest columnist for No-Till Farmer in 2011 when it earned the Gold Medal as the nation’s top newsletter from the American Society of Business Press Editors.

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