Practical Research Drives Profitable Performance

Sponsored by Beck's Hybrids

This special series highlights Beck's Practical Farm Research program conducted over multiple locations and multiple states to add profitability for growers.

Residue Management Tools Boost Yield

Practical Research Drives Profitable Performance.

Higher yield, that's the number one goal for residue management in corn. When you get residue management right a lot of good things happen, notes Luke Schulte, Ohio Field Agronomist for Beck's Hybrids.

Those good things can include: 1) faster return of nutrients tied up in leaves and stalks back to the soil, 2) a warmer seedbed earlier the next spring which enables earlier planting and better seed-to-soil contact, resulting in 3) more consistent emergence, and 4) higher yield.

How much higher yield? Beck's Practical Farm Research (PFR) ® recorded an average corn yield increase of 18.7 Bu./A in no-till corn and 11.1 Bu./A in conventional till systems in their multi-location Corn Residue Management Study. These results were a three-year average, side-by-side comparison between use of an OEM Case corn head, as a control, and a Capello Quasar corn head to size corn residue.

The study also compared a Yetter Stalk Devastator, attached under the Case corn head, with the Case corn head alone. The Yetter tool featured flat bars on rollers that crimped stalks. The Yetter Stalk Devastator crushed residue and generated a 3.3 Bu./A yield increase for no-till and a 9.3 Bu./A boost for conventional till systems over the Case corn head alone. These results were in a corn-after-corn rotation.

Beck's PFR team also saw increased soybean yields when the same residue management tools were used on conventional and no-till corn the previous fall. Their two-year multi-location study found an average increase of 2.3 Bu./A over the control for soybeans grown where the Capello Quasar corn head had sized no-till corn residue the previous fall.



These residue management tools boost yield by reducing the size of crop residue, creating more entry points for soil microbes and bacteria to break it down quicker.

"Quicker decomposition and breakdown benefit the next crop," notes Schulte, "as the residue decomposition process ties up nitrogen. The faster residue is broken down, the quicker we can return P, K and other nutrients tied up within the residue to the soil, and the more economical we can be from the standpoint of feeding the crop so we don't have to supplement it with as much commercial fertilizer."

Another potential benefit to sizing corn residue is it helps with slug management. "They like shade," he says. "The more large pieces of residue or large pieces of fodder you leave creates more shade and a more favorable environment for them."



Farmers have a lot of residue management options. There are corn head choppers and other combine attachments, and a host of vertical and other tillage tools. Schulte says the decision to use tillage for residue management is dependent on soil type, soil conditions and elevation, or lay of the field. Over tilling can have some negative side effects as well.

"The last thing we want to do is run some sort of tillage tool over a field for residue management and potentially increase erosion. The more root crowns and stalks we can leave attached to the soil the more effectively we can minimize water movement and save topsoil," says Schulte.

He sees several benefits from using the combine pass to size residue. "Doing it with a chopping head or a combine attachment eliminates a second trip across the field thereby eliminating the labor, fuel cost and potential for compaction of a separate fall tillage trip across the field. Using the combine pass also gets the decomposition process started earlier, and we also know weather will inhibit the job from getting done."

Another advantage Schulte sees is that a combine chopping head or attachment doesn't disturb the soil. "Any time we disturb the soil, even with a vertical tillage tool, we're interfering with soil microbial life and that life is more important than some may realize," he says. "Soil bacteria and microbial life perform a lot of functions that are very necessary for high yields, most notably the mineralization of organic matter into plant-available nutrients."