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The decisions we make about stalk management affect the performance of our no-till systems, and definitely impact the amount of erosion in our fields.
Our goal is to process stalks enough for efficient planting, but to have stalks available throughout the growing season to protect fields from erosion.
Here are some decisions and points to consider before harvest, with all-important spring planting in mind.
It pays to think about how your corn head processes stalks, and how combine speed impacts how the corn stalks are left.
Wheel traffic due to wide combine tires and tracks can affect a high percentage of the rows in each combine pass. Head speed and roll design also largely impact stalk conditions.
You must decide what you’re trying to accomplish with your harvest passes.
On our farm, I’m trying to harvest the ear and leave the stalk intact as much as possible so it’s still upright when I’m planting and I’m not dealing with all the residue on the ground. I’m trying to destroy the crop, but leave it there to protect my farm.
We could run a processing head, but that would require tons more horsepower and fuel. And I’m not sure the soil would warm up very fast in the spring because we’d have a big blanket of residue on the soil surface.
So a moderately aggressive chopping roll that processes the leaves and the upper part of the stalk works fine for us.
As combines become larger, they can…