Impact of Biomass Removal for Bioenergy on Soil and Water Quality

2008 Annual Report for ENC07-094

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2007: $50,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Mahdi Al-Kaisi
Iowa State University

Impact of Biomass Removal for Bioenergy on Soil and Water Quality


An educational training program on residue management was conducted through series of workshops across Iowa.

Total of five workshops and one Webinar were held from July to October of 2008. During these workshops, presentations followed by roundtable discussions were conducted. An evaluation of the program activities showed that over 55% of the attendees believe this training will help them significantly in promoting and understanding the role of crop residue in improving soil and water quality.

During the roundtable discussion in all workshops attendees indicated the value of economic incentive, implementation of new management tools such as cover crops and conservation tillage to minimize the impact of residue removal for bioenergy or other uses on soil and water quality.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The expected short, intermediate, and long-term outcomes of this training program will reflect the main objectives; these outcomes will be documented through qualitative and quantitative means.

Short-term outcomes:
1. Increase the understanding of residue effects on soil and water quality by using a rainfall simulator.
2. Increase awareness of environmental impacts associated with residue removal for the bio-economy and other residue uses such as animal feeding.
3. Improve understanding of converting CRP land to row crops such as corn-soybean or continuous corn.
3. Increase the level of understanding of residue management and residue’s role in improving soil and water quality.

Intermediate outcomes:
1. Increase residue management practice adoption by farmers to maintain residue cover as recommended by conservation plans to protect soil and water quality.
2. Incorporate residue management practices by NRCS staff and extension educators in their educational and outreach activities, to continue educating producers on proper residue management practices.
3. Produce training materials and guidelines that can be utilized by agriculture professionals and shared with other North Central states’ professional development plan (PDP) coordinators.
4. Increase public awareness about the importance of crop residue and its role in protecting our soil resources.

Long-term Outcomes:
1. Increase the adoption of best management practices in residue removal.
2. Increase the adoption of conservation practices in corn production.
3. Increase the adoption of residue management technology (e.g., residue cleaners, use of no-till in continuous corn production).
4. Improve public understanding of crop residue value for improving soil and water quality.


To achieve the above stated objectives and particularly the short-tem ones at the first year of this project, the training program focused on providing residue management technical training to agricultural professionals from different agencies, extension personnel, and agriculture industry. Several residue training workshops, roundtables, and webinar formats were conducted. From July to October of 2008 five training workshops and one webinar were conducted across Iowa. Over 200 individuals participated, representing ISU Extension field agronomists, NRCS technical staff and conservationists, crop consultants, producers, and other agricultural professionals. During these workshops the following was presented:

1. Presentations on: The Effect of Residue Management on Soil and Water Quality.
2. Presentations on: Residue management, processing and economics for bioenergy production.
3. Roundtable discussions and group break-out sessions.
4. End of workshop evaluation by attendees for feedback and ideas for next year’s program.

During these roundtable discussions in five different regions of the state to assess the future needs for next year’s training program, the following outcomes were developed that will be used in next year’s training:

1. Field training and presentations focusing on a wide range of management techniques that will complement residue management concepts. These techniques may include, but are not limited to the use of cover crops, strip-tillage system, emphasis on using alternative sources for biomass rather than using crop residue, etc.
2. Training and Presentations on the economic aspects of residue removal and the potential impact on nutrient loss and additional fertilizers for subsequent crops. Also, the assessment of potential economic value of soil organic matter loss due to residue removal and water quality cost due to soil erosion.
3. Training on conservation ethics and land ownership effects on conservation practices and residue management adoption.
4. Training on aspects of the impact of residue on soil quality and soil carbon sequestration due to residue removal.
5. Training on the impact of residue removal on water quality and potential economic costs for productivity and water quality.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

This project is designed to train the trainer on the production and environmental consequences of residue removal for bioenergy or other uses. The technical audience involved in this training works closely with farmers and the ethanol industry.

During a follow-up survey to all participants in this training we found that 55% of the participants consider the information and the resources provided are very helpful to them in understanding the issue of residue management, and as a source to aid them in their educational programs.

During the roundtable discussions the participants were asked about the level of their clients’ knowledge of the importance of residue management; responses averaged 2.4 out of 5, with 5 being excellent. However, they rated the awareness of their clients of the value of residue for improving water and soil quality as poor (1.5 out 5).

The outcomes of these roundtable discussions also show that the participants value this training and rated its value as 4 out of 5 with 5 being excellent. The survey showed that 44% of the participants lack resources and training materials on residue management, and materials provided will help significantly in their efforts to promote residue management. The outcome of the first-year roundtable discussion led to the development of set training and educational ideas that will be executed next year.


Jamie Benning
Research Associate
Iowa State University
2401 Agronomy Hall
Ames, IA 50011
Office Phone: 5152948039