Larry Parr, Regional Sales Agronomist WI
Residue, by definition, is a small amount of something that remains after the main part is gone as it has been used or removed.
Corn residue, specifically, is an important focus this time of year, and for many reasons. The amount of stalk residue has seen an increase with the yields being higher today versus in past years. Poor breakdown of this residue may cause challenges with planting conditions and emergence, and delays in plant emergence can result in lower yields. The nutrient value of the residue is much more valuable today than it has been in the past. Total residue nutrient values of ~$168 per acre or more (based on $45/ton x 3.75 tons/acre from Farm Service Agency values) may be a fair starting value for the current nutrient and fertilizer costs. More farmers may be reconsidering the financial value in their corn crop residues and asking how to recapture these nutrient values. Higher volumes of stalk residue may drive the needs for some form of resizing and incorporation, which could involve incurring cost for tillage or other methods of mechanical breakdown of the residue. These processes will add labor, fuel, and equipment cost depending on management practices. All of these reasons might make enhancing crop residue breakdown and utilization a practice that producers routinely add to their overall crop management programs.
As I thought about these factors the past couple of years, I decided to do a little demonstration on our farm last fall on some 200+ bushel corn stalk residue. On October 29th shortly after harvest, I applied BOOST with a biological and added water for coverage. At the time I am writing this article almost a year later we gathered samples, pictures, and in field observations. The field observations of the treated standing corn appeared to have a greener stalk with more uniform ears and the residue in the treated area was smaller than the control, as well as being easier to break apart.
Treated plot exhibited more uniform ears and placement than the untreated plot. The untreated plot exhibited more and larger stalk residue on row floor. Note that the growing stalk and leaf color are not nearly as green as treated plot below. In addition to the growing stalks and greener leaves, the plants also exhibit a more uniform ear size and placement.
Would applying a QLF Liquid Carbon-Based Fertilizer (L-CBF) products on the fields right after a manure application improve the nutrient utilization of that form of residue? Another thought of residue management is the utilization of livestock manure. Similar to managing residue breakdown in soils, cows process our crops and feedstuffs both mechanically and biologically, leaving a valuable nutrient rich residue behind. Based on the performance of L-CBF products of enhancing soil biology and plant health it’s easy to consider how our carbon-based approach compliments manure with our proven examples of nutrient recycling and mineralization. In addition to researching crop residue decomposition, QLF Agronomy also continues exploring and measuring the benefits of L-CBF in programs that better utilize and manage manure.
QLF’s L-CBF products are still relatively NEW to many and for some customers based on the performance they see on crops they find ways to use these products on other applications at higher rates, different applications, and some may experiment on crop residue such as I did. There are a lot of things to re-consider, think about, and evaluate regarding the utilization of crop residue and if we should consider taking further steps in optimally managing it to enhance performance and ultimately Return On Investment from these residue decomposition products and practices. Stay tuned into QLF Agronomy on the latest field data and the yield results from my residue trial.