While producers may see some economic benefit from harvesting additional biomass from their soils, experts are also looking at other ways to identify potential sources that can be incorporated into the soil.

“There are a lot of waste materials that could potentially be excellent organic matter sources for soils,” says Tom Halbach, University of Minnesota professor and Extension educator. Growers may overlook paper mills, sewage facilities, food-processing facilities or even municipalities as a source of residue enrichment.

Halbach’s research is working with these sources to determine the best ways to deliver these products to growers. If you’re located near a city with residential leaf collection, cities are often desperate to get rid of leaves, and they can make an excellent organic-material addition to the soil.

Ellen Phillips, Extension educator at the University of Illinois, has developed a pilot program that matches horse farms (with excess manure) to growers.

“Many horse stables in our area have 10-12 horses and have to pay to have it hauled, often resulting in it going to a landfill,” she says. “Sometimes these horse stables will pay you to haul the manure away.”

And with one horse producing up to 12 tons of manure and bedding a year, that’s a lot of waste that could be returned to the soils.