April 08, 2015

08/04/2015: US university agronomist weighs environmental impacts of corn residue removal

Farmers who are considering selling corn residue from their fields to produce cellulosic ethanol first should weigh a range of site-specific factors to their operations, according to new research from an Iowa State University agronomist.

Mahdi Al-Kaisi, a professor of agronomy, is urging farmers to take a thoughtful approach that accounts for variables such as topography, tillage system, nitrogen application and the amount of organic matter present in their soil to determine how much corn residue, or the plant material left behind after harvest, they should part with.

“Residue removal has some real environmental impacts on soil health and water quality,” Mr Al-Kaisi said.

“It needs to be approached thoughtfully and on a site-specific condition basis.”

His most recent publication, appearing in the peer-reviewed Soil Science Society of America Journal, shows how a decrease in crop residue can lead to increases in greenhouse gas emissions from the soil.

Mr Al-Kaisi began the study in 2008. The research examines how the loss of corn residue interacts with other variables to affect soil quality and the environment. The need for the research arose from the continued development of cellulosic ethanol, a biofuel made from corn residue. One cellulosic ethanol plant is up and running in Emmetsburg, and another is under construction in Nevada.  

Read more HERE.

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