‘Heads Up’ Solutions For Managing Corn Residue

Chopping corn heads and new header technology are giving no-tillers much-improved tools to manage tough Bt corn residue in preparation for planting.

Aside from what goes in the bin, there probably isn’t a more important task during corn harvest for no-tillers than making sure residue is properly processed.

Chopping corn heads, in particular, are gaining favor among no-tillers as a tool to process tough Bt stalks.

The heads typically utilize a lawn-mower-style rotary blade that cuts stalks into 6- to 8-inch pieces that can more easily be broken down by soil microbes and converted to humus.

Corn-head manufacturers are offering many variations of this technology that explode and pulverize the stalk into even smaller pieces, or slice it vertically for better breakdown.

The editors of Conservation Tillage Guide asked manufacturers to discuss the changing dynamics of no-tilling corn, share the corn-head technologies they offer and explain their relevance to no-tillers.

A Changing Environment

While corn has been no-tilled successfully in the U.S. for decades, a number of factors have changed in recent years to make the practice both more appealing and more difficult.

There’s been an explosion of genetically modified corn varieties in the past decade that offer strong resistance to diseases and pests. Paired with historically high corn prices and high demand from ethanol production, the number of continuous-corn acres in the U.S. has steadily increased.

The most recent estimate from Monsanto for corn-on-corn acres grown in the U.S. is nearly 28 million, a large chunk of the record 95.9 million acres of corn planted this year.

Insect protection, above- and belowground, is protecting stalks and making it difficult for Mother…

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John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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