Check Your No-Till Residue Armor Before Considering Stover Harvest

Measure residue coverage in no-till fields to ensure the soil is protected without inhibiting the planting process or causing future crop emergence and stand issues.

With the livestock industry’s increasing demand for feed and bedding, a drive for feedstock from cellulosic ethanol facilities, and declining corn prices, some no-tillers may be considering potential profits from harvesting their corn stover.

But removing too much residue can increase the risk of soil erosion and take away valuable nutrients and organic matter that sustain no-tilled soils. 

James DeDecker, a field crop and bioenergy educator at Michigan State University Extension, shares tests no-tillers can use to check if their fields have enough residue coverage, and what to consider if they’re thinking about harvesting their corn stover. 

Take Measurements

Right after spring planting, no-tillers should check their fields to see if they’ve maintained enough cover to protect the soil until the new crop is established.

The simplest test is the line transect method, DeDecker says. No-tillers take a 100-foot-long line or rope that’s marked at every foot — or a 50-foot line that’s marked every 6 inches — and stretch it diagonally across their crop rows. 

“Then look at each mark along the line to see if there’s residue under that point, so that if a raindrop came down and impacted that point, that residue would absorb the impact and prevent erosion,” he says. 

It’s important to be consistent in following this method, he adds. No-tillers need to walk along the same side of the line and keep the same perspective when they’re checking each point. 

Some no-tillers may even use a dowel to simulate the path of a raindrop…

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Laura-allen_c

Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

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