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7C

2014 Corn Edition

Stover

Continued from Page 6C

of cellulosic ethanol. Arora said stover is baled in large square bales and round bales. Squares, he said, offer a solidpack bale, but unless tarped, allows rain water to soak in because they are flat. Round bales, he said, are less solid, and when stacked, allow rain water to run off of one and onto the one below it. Refinery officials look for stover that is clean, with low ash content and low moisture content. He showed producers various machines that could be used to harvest stover, ranging from pullbehind windrowing implements used after harvest to a combine that tows a baler directly behind. “One of the ways you could increase your corn stover is to look at getting an auger for the side of the combine,” he said, telling producers that a thick windrow could be made from blowing stover residue into a row from two directions as the combine moves across the field. Arora said a benefit of having a custom baler on the back of the combine is that the stalks don’t hit the ground, so they are the cleanest they can be. However, he said something like that would most likely require more horsepower to get two jobs done at one time. He said it could also slow harvest time because of the extra process as the combine goes through the field. He said stalk-chopping windrowers produce higher quality corn stover, because of its lower ash content, adding that large square bales offer better handling for high volume biomass compared to round bales. To maximize the productivity of large square balers, tractors would need more than 250 horsepower. Bale storage becomes an issue as well. Arora said each time a bale is moved, air is reintroduced into the bales, and they sweat. He said they sweat every time they are moved, creating moisture issues. Storing bales under a roof is the best option, he said, but would be

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Pros and cons of harvesting stover A large number of variables come into play when determining if stover harvest is right for a farming operation. Stover harvest may have benefits to an operation, but also may have some negative effects. The decision whether to harvest stover depends on whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. These include: PROS ∫ Excessive stover can make tillage difficult and may require multiple passes to adequately manage the residue. Removing some stover in these situations can reduce tillage trips, saving money, fuel, time and compaction. ∫ Excessive stover can interfere with planting operations and emergence. It can physically interfere with planter units during planting and can reduce good seed-to-soil contact, reducing emergence. Removal of stover may increase seed germination and emergence. ∫ Heavy residue can slow the drying and warming of soil in the spring. This is problematic in heavy wet soils and can delay planting and emergence. Reducing the amount of stover may allow the soils to warm up and dry faster in the spring to facilitate planting. ∫ There is some evidence that heavy residue has a detrimental effect on the yield of the following year’s corn crop. It may be due to allelopathy, immobilized nitrogen, emergence and reduced stand, or perhaps all three. Having reduced amounts of stover may have a positive effect on the yield of the following corn crop in a continuous corn situation. ∫ Stover can be a source of pathogens, which may increase incidence of some diseases in the following corn crop. Reduced stover may improve plant health of the following corn crop. ∫ Removal of stover provides an economic benefit whether the stover is being used on-farm such costly for many. Tarping them works, but they can be labor intensive. An ISU study showed that for bales that are have less than 25 percent moisture, dry matter loss was greatest in the anaerobic state of storage. For bales with greater than 25 percent moisture, dry matter loss was greatest in tarped bales. “If you deliver stover with higher moisture or ash content, (some companies) won’t pay you as much,” Arora said. Arora advised against harvest-

as feed or bedding, or if sold as an additional source of income from the corn crop. ∫ Harvesting stover reuses the carbon in stover for another use rather than allowing it to return directly to the atmosphere as carbon monoxide from the field. CONS ∫ Excessive removal of stover will expose soil to erosion. Stover contains nutrients which are removed with the stover. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium can be replaced through fertilizer, but with added cost. ∫ Stover harvest incurs additional equipment, fuel and labor costs. ∫ Stover is a source of organic matter for soils. Therefore, enough stover should be left in the field to prevent loss of organic matter. ∫ Harvesting stover means more trips across the fields, which carries a cost and may also contribute to compaction especially if done when fields are wet. ∫ On soils with poor water-holding capacity, surface residue can help maintain higher moisture content in the soils and prevent them from drying out. Removal of stover may lead to drier soils and decreased yield on lighter soils. ∫ Stover harvest can be delayed by weather, which may delay other field operations. ∫ Stover harvest is one more operation to fit into the busy fall season. ∫ Stover harvest may impact contracts for rented ground.

ing too much stover, but in cases where the ground is more black, planting a cover crop could be beneficial. However, he said, if the cover crop gets too tall, producers could need to go in with a stalk chopper or similar implement, and that wet matter could get into stover bales, making them less valuable.

as much biomass as it does grain. “That’s unique in the agronomy world,” he said, adding that the crop residue value of corn stover comes with retention of soil moisture, reduction of erosion, maintaining of organic matter, improving soil structure, improving crop yields when done effectively, and renewing energy feedstocks. Kassel said some potential dangers lurk behind residue removal, including the potential decline of soil carbon and quality, greater soil erosion risk — especially on high-slope areas, and

Quality and nutrients Paul Kassel, an ISU field agronomist, talked about nutrient and soil quality concerns, saying corn is a unique crop because it creates

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long-term yield reduction. He said removal of some stover could actually increase soil carbons, but too much removal could reduce overall total organic carbons, reducing soil productivity. This result varies with soil types. “In a perfect world you would want a lower bulk density in the soil — where you would sink in when you walk on it,” Kassel said.”As you remove more residue the density goes up.” Kassel said residue removal allows soils to warm faster in spring leading to improved germination on poorly drained soils. A switch to no-till and slightly increased nitrogen rates can minimize soil carbon loss due to residue removal, and that higher amounts of residue removal can cause higher bulk densities and decreased water infiltration, promoting erosion. “Residue removal rates should be determined with consideration for tillage, site characteristics, fertility and productivity in order to maintain soil health,” Kassel said. Tests done by ISU Extension showed that stover harvesting reduced the economic optimal nitrogen rate by 20 to 40 pounds of nitrogen per acre, and did not affect yield on fields that were tilled, but increased yield with no-till practices by 5 to 6 percent. Kassel said corn stover has 50 percent less nitrogen and 25 percent phosphorous than grain, but it has 250 percent more potassium than grain. He said farmers need to monitor closely the comparison between nutrient values of the corn and stover, and the cost of harvesting it, along with the cost of nutrient and fertilizer applications to accommodate for the stover removal. Results from one ISU study showed that some stover removal resulted in lower soil nutrient applications with little to slightly higher yield results, but those results varied with tillage practices. The POET-DSM ethanol plant in Emmetsburg is expected to create 40 new jobs, along with feedstock sourcing generating $21 million per year in local revenue.

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2014 Corn Edition  

A publication of Farm News with editorial and advertising focused on the Corn Industry with the Ag sector.

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