Establishment of Permissible Levels of Residue Removal for Corn, Wheat, and Sorghum Fields as Biofuel Feedstocks

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2010: $173,278.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Humberto Blanco
University of Nebraska

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, sorghum (milo), wheat


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, continuous cropping, no-till, stubble mulching, conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, soil stabilization
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil physics, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    This regional project will determine the positive and negative impacts of corn, wheat, and sorghum residue removal on soil and crop production. Famers and other end users will gain knowledge of the impacts of residue removal as biofuel. Threshold levels of residue removal will be established for principal soils. The potential adverse effects of residue removal on crop production and soil and water resources have not been adequately scrutinized in the NCR. At this point, site-specific information on maximum permissible residue removal rates is not available. This project will fill this gap of information. It will be conducted simultaneously on research plots and on-farm sites across nine locations in Kansas. Crop residues after harvest each year will be removed at five different levels (0, 25, 50, 75, and 100%) from rainfed and irrigated no-till continuous wheat, continuous sorghum, wheat-sorghum-fallow, continuous corn, and wheat-corn-fallow systems. Grain and biomass yields, soil organic matter pools and rates of greenhouse gas fluxes, water erosion, and soil hydrologic, compaction, structural, fertility, and wind erosion parameters will be measured and used to establish the allowable levels of residue removal. Data will be extrapolated to other regions through modeling. Results will be disseminated through on-farm field days, news media, journal articles, extension bulletins, and conferences. The impacts will be evaluated by written surveys and interviews during and after the project completion.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    PROJECT OUTCOMES. The activities from this regional project will result in specific and quantifiable short-, medium-, and long-term outcomes.
    Short-term Outcomes (1 year)
    1. Gain knowledge of the rapid positive or negative impacts of corn, wheat, and sorghum residue removal on soil and crop production. Specifically, farmers and other end users (extension personnel, and biofuel industry groups) will learn/understand whether or not crop residue removal: 1) reduces grain and biomass yields, deteriorates soil quality, reduces soil organic matter and nutrient pools, and increases water and wind erosion.
    2. Determine the preliminary threshold levels of residue removal for each crop (corn, wheat, and sorghum) based on the short-term data on residue removal impacts.
    3. Develop reports (e.g., journal and extension articles and conference papers) based on the short-term data and hold on-farm field days for impact evaluations.
    Medium-term Outcomes (3 years)
    1. Determine the soil and crop response to crop residue removal by generating 3-yr data on soil hydrologic, compaction, structural, and fertility parameters as well as crop yields (grain and biomass). These data will provide a better understanding of residue removal impacts compared with the short-term (1 year) data.
    2. Establish the threshold levels of residue removal for each crop (wheat, sorghum, and corn).
    3. Share the threshold levels of residue removal with farmers, extension personnel, biofuel industry groups, scientific community, and others through on-farm field days, conferences, project reports, and extension and journal articles.
    4. Influence the decision making process of the farmers about crop residue management through field days and publications.
    Long-term Outcomes (>3 years)
    This project is expected to continue beyond the three years for obtaining long-term (>3 yr) data on residue removal impacts. Funding will be requested from different agencies to support the continuation of this project. Long-term experimentation is critical for the establishment of definitive threshold levels of residue removal.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.