Harvest-Time Residue Management Hurdles And Solutions

Massive headers, tough stalks, increasing residue and other factors make having a plan for residue management at harvest essential.

 Progress is great, but with the good sometimes also comes the bad. Such is the case with residue. 

Changes in machinery, genetics, continuous corn systems, crop protection products, tillage practices and more can pile on the residue problems. No-Till Farmer talked to no-tillers and experts to identify potential problems and provide some strategies for digging yourself out of the residue pile.

Bigger Headers, Bigger Challenge

If you’ve got a 15-foot header, chances are you can easily do a good job of spreading soybean or small grain residue. But while “bigger is better” is a common philosophy, today’s 30-plus-foot headers compound residue issues.

“While most of the combine manufacturers in the world are focusing on producing wider harvest platforms, very few are developing choppers or spreaders that are capable of spreading material across the width of the combine,” says Phil Needham, Needham Ag Technologies. “That has become a problem because many farmers aren’t aware that spreading residue will be an issue and there aren’t a lot of modifications available to make the system work.”

Even residue distribution is critical in a no-till system, especially when harvesting soybeans.

“Soybean residue contains about 0.8% nitrogen. If you’re throwing out 4,000 pounds of residue, that’s 35 pounds of nitrogen per acre,” Needham explains. “If residue is only spread across 15 feet of a 30-foot header, there will be a band of ground with 70 pounds of nitrogen and a band with none.

“There will be uneven nutrition, part of the soil will be warm…

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