LEAVE STALKS ATTACHED. This is the level of residue you can expect 9 months after harvesting 200-bushel corn planted in 20-inch rows. The previous corn crop was harvested with a Case IH corn head with knives. A coulter-residue manager combination was used on the planter.

Manage Residue To Maximize The Benefits

Strive for even distribution and a slow breakdown of residue so it improves your no-till fields without impacting planting.

Managing your crop residue properly can have a large impact on the success of your no-till operation.

Residues improve the soil profile by reducing runoff and soil loss, conserving soil moisture, improving soil microorganism populations, increasing soil organic matter, and enhancing the soil’s hydraulic and physical properties. It’s important to manage residue so it breaks down slowly and is evenly distributed throughout your fields.

These factors influence the amount of crop residue you’ll need to manage and the longevity of residue in your fields:

What type of crop are you growing (corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa)?

Are you using a Bt trait or conventional corn hybrids?

What’s the level of residue carried over from the previous year?

What type of residue processing are you using on the combine? Are you using a chopper, spreader or a chaff spreader? What’s the effect of chopping vs. not chopping residue?

Are you grazing fields after harvest?

What type of tillage do you use and what’s the timing of field operations?

How much soil moisture do you maintain and how much exposure do your soils have to sunlight?

The table below shows how greatly residue varies between different crops. With this large variance between crops and the effects of all the other factors outlined above, residue can vary considerably from farm to farm and from year to year.

Manage Residue

To protect soil, try to manage residue so it doesn’t impinge on planting or early season crop development.

In corn, consider using a corn head…

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Leverich jim

Jim Leverich

No-Till Farmer's Conservation Ag Operator Fellow for 2022, Jim Leverich is a no-till farmer near Sparta, Wis. His 1,000 acre-farm has been in his family since 1864 and no-tilled since 1984. An innovator and educator, Leverich has 35-plus years of no-till and on-farm research experience, and possesses a deep, practical understanding of what makes no-till work. For his contributions while at the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service, Leverich was named the No-Till Innovator of the Year (Research & Education category) in 2006. A talented presenter and writer, Leverich was a regular guest columnist for No-Till Farmer in 2011 when it earned the Gold Medal as the nation’s top newsletter from the American Society of Business Press Editors.

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