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Thinking about corn stover harvest?
- Evaluate each field separately for residue harvest sustainability. Stover removal is not an option on every field, says USDA-ARS Soil Scientist Jane Johnson. “On erodible land, don’t even think about it!”
- Consult erosion and soil carbon index tools from NRCS before you make a decision. Stover harvest will be most feasible for producers achieving high yields with continuous-corn systems.
- Maintain a strong fertility testing and nutrient management program.
- Reduce or eliminate tillage and employ other soil conservation practices.
- Add a perennial or cover crop to your rotation.
Sources: Jane Johnson, USDA-ARS North Central Soil Conservation Lab, Douglas Karlen, USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment
Corn stover baling machines rolled across 2,500 acres of harvested cornfields last fall on Mike and Lyle Greenfield’s Jewell, Iowa, farm. The Greenfields’ stover is headed to DuPont’s new 30-million-gallon cellulosic ethanol plant in nearby Nevada, Iowa. The facility is one of two commercial cellulosic ethanol plants scheduled to begin making renewable fuel from corn residue this year. Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels is building a 25-million-gallon plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa.
In 2013, DuPont and Poet-DSM took in nearly a quarter million tons of cobs, leaves and stalks from about 200,000 acres. The companies are working with several hundred growers in central and northwest Iowa.
These growers are finding that partial stover removal is an effective way to cope with the ever-increasing mounds of residue in high-yielding continuous corn systems, says Dennis Penland, business development manager for DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol. “We’re offering another tool for residue management.”
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The Greenfields have supplied stover to DuPont for three seasons. “Residue management has been a problem for us,” says Mike Greenfield. “With all the stalks in continuous corn, you get a buildup of diseases, it ties up N in the soil,” and impedes soil warm-up and planting. “So getting rid of some stalks is a benefit for us.”
Now, he says, residue harvest “is becoming an integral part of our operation, part of how we manage corn-on-corn.”