Consider Economics, Soil Health When Mulling Corn Stover Harvest

Michigan project examines residue harvest in terms of impact on yield, storage characteristics, use as cattle feed or combining with cover crops.

Pictured Above: TRITICALE TEST. A 3-year study at Michigan State University looked at several factors involved with harvesting corn stover, including potential future yield impacts, use as cattle feed, benefits of adding cover crops and short- and long-term storage. Pictured is interseeded triticale as part of the project

In a recently concluded 3-year study at Michigan State University Extension, researchers weighed the functionality and marketability of harvesting corn stover in corn-on-corn and corn-on-soybeans rotations. 

One of the study’s lead authors, Extension wheat specialist Dennis Pennington, says economics will drive decisions on harvesting corn stover, as he elaborates on the Michigan Corn Stover Project and its ramifications for no-till farmers.

“The data from our Michigan study will relate in areas of the Midwest with similar soil types and rainfall, approximately 31-33 inches per year,” he says, “Access to markets, cellulosic ethanol, cattle feeding and bedding, are required before a farmer should even consider removing stover.”

Since there are no cellulosic ethanol plants in Michigan, for example, stover must compete with other forage sources for cattle feed, Pennington says.

“In years with high forage yields and adequate supply of dry hay, for example, corn stover may not be able to compete for market share. In years with scarce forage supply, corn stover can play a significant role for beef cattle diets by reducing feed costs compared with traditional forage sources,” he says.

The Basics

The value of corn stover depends on its end use, and on the price and availability of other…

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Mark mcneely1

Mark McNeely

Mark McNeely is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. His previous experience includes 25 years in industrial engine journalism and marketing. Mark holds an M.A. in journalism from the University of Wisconsin.

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