Good residue management can make the difference between the success or failure of your spring plantings! Whether you use till or no-till , this article will explain how to properly manage your corn stubble for your next soybean crop!
There is no tillage in no-till. The corn residue is left on the soil surface rather than buried. All you have to do is distribute it evenly over the field to foster uniform planting and a well-warmed soil in the spring.
The best way to distribute the residue is to have the right tool on your combine. Your best choice here is a straw chopper/spreader. It is also important to operate the machinery at a constant speed. This will prevent varying layers of soil thickness from forming.
In no-till, the stubble dries out much faster; also, it is easier to cut if it isn’t flattened. Double wheels and the right settings on your combine are therefore crucial. As well, opt for grain carts positioned at the end of the field whenever possible.
Before implementing a zero-till system, we recommend that you start by evaluating your soil’s health (pH, structure, stability, drainage).
- Poor soil conditions can affect the emergence of soybean seedlings.
- Insufficient microbial life does not break down the residue effectively. Consequently, the soil will be wetter and slower to warm up.
Why keep the residue?
It increases the level of organic matter, improves soil structure, and helps boost microbial activity. It also reduces the risk of erosion caused by runoff, high winds and heavy rains.
Why bury and chop the residue?
Once winter is over, the soil warms up and dries out more quickly. Chopping the residue speeds up decomposition.
Which production system offers the best yield?
Shawn Conley, a University of Wisconsin soybean specialist, conducted a study that compares various corn residue management methods to mitigate yield losses in a zero-till system.
The 2022 results show that no-till, along with chopping the corn residue and applying 30 units of nitrogen, produces better results than straight no-till. In fact, the yield obtained with these two methods rivals that of conventional soil tillage (See trials in figures 5 and 7, versus 9).
The study also demonstrates that spring application of nitrogen (30 lbs) supports decomposition of the remaining corn residue and reduces the impact on yield. (See trials 1, 5 and 7).
The takeaway, according to Shawn Conley, is that we don’t always have to get out the “iron” and turn the soil over to dispose of corn stubble.