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Crop Residue Management

Crop Residue Management in South Dakota

According to the 1997 National Resources Inventory (NRI), about 18 percent of South Dakota's cropland resource is eroding at rates greater than the established tolerant level "T."  Of these acres, 5 percent of 769,000 acres are eroding at rates exceeding 2 times.

Crop residue management continues to be a major factor in controlling soil erosion by wind and water in South Dakota.  Since 1989, the acreage in all forms of reduced tillage in South Dakota have increased 21 percent of the cropland base, or by approximately 2.7 million acres.  The major shift over this time period has been the no-till acreage, which have increased 2.6 million acres.  This increase in residue management indicates a major shift in crop production methods and a substantial reduction in soil erosion.  Two out of every three acres of cropland in South Dakota use one form or another of residue management.

Graph of Crop Residue Management on Planted Cropland

Graph of Acres Under No-Till Farming on Planted Cropland

Crop residue management has substantially reduced erosion; however, if other changes are not made along with the reduction in tillage, the increased amount of residue can lead to increased problems with pests, seeding equipment, poor seedling emergence, and phototoxicity.

Research on intensified crop rotations with limited tillage systems in the Northern Great Plains has produced cropping systems with increased water use efficiency and made possible the growing of additional annual crops in the rotations with less fallow.   Cropping systems that lengthen the wheat-fallow rotation and interject crops such as corn or millet into the rotation have resulted in increased grain production over the rotation, reduced erosion, increased amount of crop residue returned to the soil, and increased the soil organic matter levels in as little as four years.  Management systems that use more diversity and increased cropping intensity, combined with reduced tillage, can significantly increase producers annual net incomes as compared to the traditional wheat-fallow systems.

Information on research in the Northern Great Plains on intensified crop rotations with limited tillage systems is available at Welcome to No--Till.com, http://www.dakotalakes.com/links.htm, http://www.mandan.ars.usda.gov, or http://www.akron.ars.usda.gov.