Time to Develop a Residue Management Plan

Baling cornstalks is an option to reduce surface residue. The loss of that much organic material will deplete some soil nutrients, however, especially Potassium. Farmers just need to bear this in mind as they develop their Nutrient Management Plans.

Getting rid of crop residue can allow the soils to warm up quicker and dry out faster in the spring.  But there is a fine line between removing residue to provide such benefits and leaving so much residue that it actually impedes crop development.  Taking time to develop a crop residue management plan this fall may greatly improve crop emergence and reduce disease problems next spring.

Options to manage crop residue include: tillage, chopping, the use of residue cleaners or burning.

If you believe burning is your best option, keep these tips in mind from county conservationists, who were recently interviewed by the Iowa Farmer Today:

  • The best time to burn is when grass has gone dormant, after the first killing freeze and into April or early May.
  • Conditions need to be favorable to prevent a wildfire.  The National Weather Service offers a fire weather forecast on its website.  Also be cognizant of whether there is a ban on burning in the area.
  • Fire breaks should be established by creating a line of bare soil to stop the fire.
  • Once a burn is scheduled, notify the local fire department. That puts the department on alert in case the fire burns out of control.  Once the burn is done, the local fire department should be notified again.
  • Smoke also needs to be managed to avoid having smoke cover a road.