Residue Concerns

The recent rains have left their impact on fields throughout the county and Nebraska in general.  I’ve received several questions this week regarding flooded fields and how to help crops buried beneath piles of residue.  

For flooded fields, Bob Nielsen with Purdue University wrote an excellent article to address these concerns.  In short, our cooler temperatures will help plants survive better, but plants completely submerged under water in saturated soils for more than 48 hours don’t stand much of a chance for survival.  You can read his entire article here.

If there’s one thing I would like to see farmers reconsider, it’s stalk chopping.  It seems like every year we deal with heavy rains washing stalks from fields where they pile in certain areas of the fields burying plants, covering roadside ditches or jamming creeks.  Talking to my colleagues and to several area farmers, we’ve all considered burning as an option.  However, burning may only get the top-most dry material while the material underneath is still wet and won’t burn.  Another farmer correctly pointed out that there’s usually so much silt intermingled with the residue that it’s hard to get a good burn anyway.

Keith Glewen, UNL Extension Educator in Saunders Co. suggests you consider harrowing  or possibly rotary hoeing the stalks, knowing that the depth of stalks and the period of time which elapses following a heavy rain event are important factors in determining success or failure in managing the unwanted stalks.  There’s a short amount of time to get that residue off those plants if there’s no light getting down to them.  In some situations in the county, residue is up to 1 ft. deep over the top of plants.  Harrowing can help even out the field and emerged seedlings may be damaged, but the growing point for corn is still below ground at this point.  For emerged beans, the growing point would be above ground so harrowing wouldn’t be a good option.  With the rains again today and forecast for more in the future, I’m not even sure that harrowing is much of an option right now for corn as it will take awhile to get back into the fields.  In places where 1 ft. of residue is burying plants and the inability to get to those piles with the wet conditions, I don’t expect much plant survival there. 

For now we’ll have to wait and see.  In the mean time, evaluate your operation and the need for chopping stalks.  If you don’t detach the stalk it won’t move.  UNL on-farm research found no yield benefit to shredding vs. not shredding stalks in the research which can be found here.

About jenreesources

I'm the Crops and Water Extension Educator for York and Seward counties in Nebraska with a focus in irrigated crop production and plant pathology.

Posted on May 25, 2011, in Crop Updates and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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