Harvest is here. And, the residue your combine leaves behind can make an impact on what your yield monitor displays a year from now. Harvest tools can set you up for an optimal growing environment for 2016. You can manage corn residue to be an advantage while minimizing residue obstructions at planting.
Why Residue Management Matters
Without proper residue management, residual stalks can cause multiple issues in our fields. With standard OEM stalk rolls, the stalk is cut with limited points for microbial entry. This slows the breakdown process, and in fact, can take up to five years for the stalk to break down into soil solution – limiting what would be available nutrients that our crops need.
But, if the stalks are cut too small – like confetti – it creates challenges for row cleaners to sweep the residue aside, and seedling blights can occur. While planting technology has the ability to manage depth and spacing extremely well, it’s still not uncommon to have 1,500 to 1,800 plants per acre struggling to get seed-to-soil contact due to emergence near a piece of residue.
Consider the Carbon Penalty
When stalks are cut with standard OEM stalk rolls, consider the carbon penalty – a phenomenon that occurs when corn stalks are broken down in your fields. The organisms that break down the corn stalks use nitrogen as a food source. When they’re busy breaking down the corn stalks, they tie up nitrogen that would otherwise be available in your fields for plant use. Corn has a high carbon to nitrogen ratio – 60:1. The higher the carbon to nitrogen ratio, the more nitrogen is tied up to break down the stalk. And, the longer a stalk takes to break down, the longer mineralization is withheld, and the nutrient is not available to your crop. The tie up: that’s called the carbon penalty. The result: mineralization is delayed, and nitrogen is not available to your plant.
To quantify the process for corn residue, let’s look at the table below:
|N IMMOBILIZED (lbs/ac)
Source: Crop-Tech Consulting
As you can see, a 215 bushel corn crop will produce six tons of dry residue, requiring about 90 lbs. of nitrogen to feed the microbes that will break down the residue. That’s 90 lbs. of nitrogen that could be feeding your crop, but instead is busy breaking down residue.
The 360 CHAINROLL Solution
But, we’ve found a way to turn this penalty into a positive. 360 CHAINROLL is a retrofit stalk roll that chops and partially lacerates stalks, making residue more readily available to microbial breakdown for better soil health and nutrient availability. The advanced, patented design also leaves most sections connected – like a chain – for more stable residue pieces so you don’t experience the clusters of small, confetti-like residue that tie up nitrogen and impede seedbed preparation. Stalks are chopped into 8-12 in. sections that are lacerated from top to bottom – still in tact for the row cleaner to remove, yet full of entry points for a swift microbial breakdown.
Full-season nitrogen management starts at harvest. Let’s take full advantage of the nutrients that the environment gives us, while making sure residue is cut in a way that provides an optimal seed bed come Spring.