Turn Stubborn Piles of Residue Into Cash for No-Till Soils, Crops

Biological residue digesters on the market can help no-tillers saddled with not-so-perfect soil biology recycle their crop stover and stubble faster to improve nutrient management.

Pictured Above: Going, gone. Many residue digester products available now can be applied after harvest or in spring to help degrade and decompose no-till residue and avoid nutrient tie-up. This no-till corn stalk is decaying in a field after an application of Chandler Biocat 1000.

Highly functioning no-tilled soils should, in theory, efficiently break down crop residue into humus and soil organic matter so plants can take up nitrogen (N), potassium and phosphorus (P) left by the decayed material for the next crop.

But how efficiently this happens depends a lot on crop rotation, climate and what types of bacteria and fungi are already present in the soil. Certainly not every soil profile has ideal biological activity. 

No-tillers facing mountains of undigested residue from today’s high-yielding crops may want to investigate products on the market touted to help break down crop residue. It could net a return on their residue investment instead of tying up those nutrients.

A Faster Start

Eric, Ill.-based Midwest Bio-Tech, markets Chandler Biocat 1000, a liquid enzyme product applied directly on crop residue after harvest for faster and more complete decomposition — especially with heavier stalks from Bt corn. 

Biocat 1000 accelerates the decomposition of crop residue by stimulating growth of the beneficial bacteria, fungi and other organisms that break down organic compounds in the soil. It initially works to decay the…

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John dobberstein2

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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