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Crop Residue Management

Crop Residue Management








Crop Residue Management

Leaving last season’s crop residues on the soil surface by limiting tillage; includes no till, mulch till and ridge till.

How it works

Leaving last season’s crop residues on the surface after harvest and before and during the next planting provides cover for the soil at critical times of year. The residue is left on the surface by reducing tillage operations. Pieces of crop residue shield soil particles from rain and wind until crops produce a protective canopy.

How it helps

  • Prevents soil erosion and protects water quality
  • Improves soil tilth and adds organic matter to the soil as it decomposes
  • Reduces soil compaction with fewer trips and less tillage
  • Saves fuel, labor and time with reduced field operations
  • Sequesters carbon in the soil

Planning ahead

  • Will your crop produce enough residue?
  • Is crop residue management part of a planned system of conservation measures?
  • Do you have the needed equipment?

Technical notes

  • Planning for residue cover begins at harvest. Ensure ample residues are spread evenly over the field by the combine.
  • Reduce the number of unnecessary tillage passes. Every pass buries more residue.
  • Use straight points and sweeps on chisel plows instead of twisted points. Twisted points can bury 20% more residue.
  • Set tillage tools to work at shallower levels.
  • Do not burn residues.

Measuring crop residues

Estimate residue levels by using a line that has 50 or 100 equally divided marks. After planting, stretch the line diagonally across the cropped area. Count the number of marks that have residue under the leading edge when looking from directly above the mark. Walk the entire length of the rope. The total number of marks with residue under them is the percent residue cover. (If the line has only 50 marks instead of 100, multiply your count by two.) Repeat three to five times in a representative area to determine percent of average residues.