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Crop Residue Management

How it works

Leaving last year’s crop residue on the surface before and during planting operations provides cover for the soil at a critical time of the year. The residue is left on the surface by reducing tillage operations and turning the soil less. Pieces of crop residue shield soil particles from rain and wind until plants can produce a protective canopy.

How it helps

Ground cover prevents soil erosion and protects water quality.
Residue improves soil tilth and adds organic matter to the soil as it decomposes.
Fewer trips and less tillage reduces soil compaction.
Time, energy and labor savings are possible with fewer tillage trips.

Planning ahead

Will your crop produce enough residue?
Is crop residue management part of a planned system of conservation measures?
Do you have the needed equipment?

Tech notes

Planning for residue cover begins at harvest.
Ensure ample residues are spread evenly over the field by the combine.
Reduce the number of unnecessary tillage passes.
Every tillage pass buries more crop residue.
Use straight points and sweeps on chisel plows instead of twisted points.
Twisted points can bury 20% more residue.
Set tillage tools to work at shallower levels.
Reduce speed of operation.

Measuring crop residues

You can estimate residue levels by using a line that has 50 or 100 equally divided marks. Stretch the line diagonally across crop rows. Count the number of marks that have residue under the leading edge when looking from directly above the mark. Walk the entire length of the rope. The total number of marks with residue under them is the percent residue cover. If the line has only 50 marks, multiply your count by two. Repeat this three to five times in a representative area of the field.
(Source – http://www.ctic.purdue.edu/resourcedisplay/298/)

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