Understanding the Impacts of Grazing and Baling Corn Residue on Subsequent Crop Yields Across Various Soil Types with Different Erosion Potential

Project Overview

LNC13-354
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2013: $199,059.00
Projected End Date: 11/01/2017
Grant Recipient: Unversity of Nebraska
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Rick Rasby
Unversity of Nebraska

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Agronomic: corn, rye
  • Animals: bovine

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management, stocking rate, winter forage
  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Abstract:

    Corn residue is abundant in the mid-west/corn belt and is an excellent feed for livestock. Cow costs can be reduced if the cows graze to get their nutrient needs as compared to feeding harvested feeds. Row crop producers are concerned that allowing livestock to graze their corn residue will reduce the yield of the subsequent crop and also cause compaction. The University of Nebraska has long term data from two research sites, one in eastern and one in western NE, that says there is no reduction in subsequent yield (corn followed by corn or in a corn:soybean rotation) in addition, no indications of compaction if cattle graze the corn residue per University of Nebraska recommendation. Producers in NE suggest that although there was good research at two sites in NE, those sites were not like their farm. Therefore, 6 sites were identified to participate in the SARE project where they agreed to impliment three replicated treatments: Control, Baled, Grazed (using Nebraska recommendation). At cooperator site we collected yield data and soil data in the spring and fall each year. Our hypothesis was that there would be no difference in yield and soil attributes if corn residue was grazed. We found that there was no difference in yield or soil attributes if the corn residue was grazed. Although we saw no difference in yield by year in the baled treatments, three years is not long enough to say this with any certainty. We feel confident regarding grazing on subsequent yield as it is supported with 20 years and 10 years of data at two University locations. In the survey, we found that there were some row crop producers that would allow grazing, but had no livestock. Hence, we developed the website – Crop Residue Exchange.

    1. Presented data collected in the NCSARE funded project at 3 National Meetings.
    2. Presented data collected in the NCSARE funded project at 5 meeting in Nebraska.
    3. Presented data collected in the NCSARE funded project at 6 Field Days hosted by project cooperators and University of Nebraska Extension.
    4. Three graduate students that have their Master’s Ph.D. program centered around the NCSARE funded project published 5 abstracts using data collected in the NCSARE project.
    5. Graduate students wrote 4 reports that will appear in the 2017 Nebraska Beef Report.
    6. Faculty wrote, using the survey data collected for the NCSARE funded project, a newsletter article that appeared in CropWatch and generated one Journal Article (Journal of Extension).

    Introduction:

    Corn residue is abundant in the mid-west/corn belt and is an excellent feed for livestock. Cow costs can be reduced if the cows graze to get their nutrient needs as compared to feeding harvested feeds. Row crop producers are concerned that allowing livestock to graze their corn residue will reduce the yield of the subsequent crop and also cause compaction. The University of Nebraska has long term data from two research sites, one in eastern and one in western NE, that says there is no reduction in subsequent yield (corn followed by corn or in a corn:soybean rotation) in addition, no indications of compaction if cattle graze the corn residue per University of Nebraska recommendation. Producers in NE suggest that although there was good research at two sites in NE, those sites were not like their farm.

    Project objectives:

    Project Objectives:

    1. Determine the effects of corn residue grazing and baling on subsequent grain yield and soil productivity.
    2. Deliver a database on grain yield and soil productivity as affected by residue removal under rain-fed and irrigated fields with differing erosion potentials.
    3. Determine the effects of utilizing cover crop grazing as a part of a livestock-cropping system on subsequent yield and animal performance.
    4. Deliver technology transfer and improved educational methods that include producers as cooperators and presenters on the impact of corn residue removal on subsequent yield and the use of cover crops in corn fields.
    5. Deliver guidelines for crop residue management for livestock production

     

    Objective #1. Our data says that grazing as a corn residue removal mechanism, according to UNL grazing recommendations, does not reduce subsequent corn or soybean yield, and does not result in compaction. Corn residue removal using baling, removes nutrients and can result in wind and water erosion.

    Objective #2. Data collected in this project adds to a larger data base collected over many years that removal of corn residue by grazing does not result in a reduction in subsequent. Our data were collected in different landscapes and soil types using similar tillage practices.

    Objective #3. Cover crops and grazing cover crops have not had a negative impact on grain yield. Using a cover crop mix of turnips, radishes, oats and rye, weaned calf performance ranged from 1.5 to 2.3 lb/hd/da. Cover crop establishment depends on moisture and environmental temperature and we have had success when planting after silage and high moisture corn harvest or wheat harvest in July.

    Objective #4. Data has been shared in 8 scientific and non-scientific publications, 7 state and national meetings, 1 newsletter, and 6 field days.

    Objective #5. Will be fully addressed after fall 2016 and spring 2017 field data is collected.

    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.