Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

No Till Notes: Residue Level


Believe it or not, the end of the growing season is rapidly approaching. Now is a good time to check your fields for the level of residue you have in them. If you find your residue levels are low and there is a large amount of bare soil observed you may need to assess how you can change your residue management to improve your residue levels.

The level of residue you find in your fields directly affects how much moisture your soil is able to provide to the crop you had growing in the field. Let's assume you grew a field of dry land corn this year. If you find your field has little remaining residue from the previous crop you have lost some potential yield.

Regionally, we've had an abnormal growing season with abundant moisture throughout most of the summer.

I looked at our dry land corn fields over the weekend and I estimated the soil surface is about 90 % covered with residue at the end of this growing season. It is critical to have as much residue as possible in the field for any high water use crop such as corn in order to have good water infiltration into the soil and to lower the soil moisture evaporation rates as much as possible. This high amount of residue will allow the soil to absorb and store as much moisture as possible and provide moisture to the crop during the dry time of the growing season.

This past spring I observed producers planting dry land corn into fields with varying levels of residue. The least amount of residue I saw was dry land corn planted into sunflower stubble.There was dry land corn planted into last year's dry land corn field. I also saw producers' plant corn into wheat stubble using a strip till planting system. Each scenario started with a lack of residue on the soil surface from either the previous crop having low residue levels or the disturbance with the strip till planting system.

During the hot part of the growing season when the moisture level in the soil became critical it was fairly predictable to watch the corn suffer with the lack of residue to absorb and store the moisture received earlier in the growing season. The corn planted into the sunflower stubble began to show the first signs of moisture stress, followed by the corn on corn rotation, followed by the strip till planting system. Each scenario had a lack of residue from the previous crop or soil disturbance which eventually showed as moisture stress in the crop. Fields planted using no till with little soil disturbance into the wheat stubble showed little if any moisture stress. I feel these fields that lacked residue or had soil disturbance at planting are going to show a loss of yield potential at harvest time.

In our wheat, corn, field pea crop rotation our residue levels are lowest following the field peas. In looking at our residue levels in these pea stubble fields I feel we have around 75% of the soil surface covered with residue at wheat planting. There is pea residue from the harvest along with corn stubble from the previous year and even some wheat residue from the previous wheat crop. Even at our lowest residue levels we are still able to maintain sufficient levels of residue on the soil surface.

I would encourage you to take the time to assess the levels of residue in your fields. If you feel you have a low level of residue on the soil surface examine management changes you can make to maintain as much residue on the soil surface as possible. These same principles apply when it comes to irrigated crop production and lowering our impact on our ground and surface water resources.


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