Study: Cover Crops Make Corn Stover More Sustainable, Profitable

Farmers using cover crops as a soil conservation method can remove much more corn stover per acre for biofuels or other uses and at the same time potentially increase their income, Purdue University research shows.

The research points to the age-old conservation method as a way to protect the soil and add value. Using cover crops — plants such as crimson clover or annual ryegrass that blanket the soil — farmers can sustainably remove 1.8 tons more stover per acre than they otherwise would remove, the researchers say.

“The most important finding is that the added revenue from stover removal likely would be enough to pay the costs of a cover crop, in most cases,” said Wally Tyner, one of the researchers. “Thus, with a cover crop, more stover removal is environmentally sustainable.”

Corn residue, or stover, left on fields after harvest has long been a promising source of biofuel. But harvesting too much stover strips the soil of nutrients and health. The research is detailed in the Purdue Extension publication Synergies Between Cover Crops and Corn Stover Removal, by Tyner and Michelle Pratt of the agricultural economics department; David J. Muth Jr. of Praxik Inc. of Ames, Iowa; and Eileen J. Kladivko of agronomy. It also was published online by the journal Science Direct.

The research tests whether revenue from stover sales can pay for cover crop costs. It also analyzes the benefits of different cover crops and cover crop mixtures for farmers who just reap the agronomic impact and for farmers who remove and sell corn stover.

“If you have a cover crop, it provides some of the same soil retention, organic matter buildup and other benefits as keeping the stover on the ground. In fact, it provides more,” Tyner said. “So, if there were a viable market for corn stover for biofuels, animal feed or anything else, then the added stover that could be sustainably removed could provide enough revenue to pay for the cover crop costs.”

That means farms would have healthier soil and higher potential revenues, even accounting for costs of seed, planting and terminating. As the U.S. government encourages a transition to biofuels, stover removal is likely to increase. By 2022, the U.S. Energy Independence Act requires that 16 billion gallons of ethanol-like biofuels come from renewable fuel sources. These could be derived from corn stover.

The researchers considered and modeled various benefits for two kinds of farmers: those who harvest corn stover and those who don’t. Cover crops increase net benefits for both — whether in cash or soil health, even compared with a no-till approach.

For farmers who remove and sell the stover, the benefits are financial. Instead of increasing agronomic value, such as soil retention and vitality, the cover crop replaces the corn stover as a protector and preserver of the soil. In turn, more stover can be removed and sold, then turned into biofuel. Considering cost alone, annual ryegrass provided the greatest potential profits in models, but when nitrogen in the soil was accounted for, crimson clover performed better.

But even farmers who don’t remove corn stover may gain agronomic advantages from cover crops – healthier soil with more nutrients that is less likely to erode or compact. For instance, crimson clover adds $21.28 worth of nutrients to the soil per acre and increases the soil organic matter by a value of $44.72 an acre. It reduces soil compaction — essentially when the soil doesn’t get enough air in it — and erosion as well, further increasing the value of the soil for the farmer.

The full article, which includes comparisons and benefit-cost analyses of six cover crops and two cover crop mixes for agronomic advantage or corn stover removal, is available free for download at Purdue Extension’s Education store. Search for publication RE-7-W.

The research also is available on the Science Direct Website.

Source: Lindsey Alexander, Purdue Agriculture News

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

Stewardship Stories

Water Drainage
StewardshipNew System Could Remove Two Water Pollutants from Ag Fields
August 14, 2017
Algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico use up the majority of the oxygen in the water, leading to massive Read More
Iowa waterways
Stewardship2,600 Iowa Farmers Commit $8.7 Million to Water Quality Practices
August 9, 2017
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced Tuesday that a record number of Iowa farmers signed up to install nutrient Read More
Darin Lickfeldt Verdesian In Field
Crop InputsVerdesian: Sustainability Goes Hand in Hand with Profits
July 25, 2017
Sustainability is a hot topic in agriculture these days. And while measuring sustainability and its on-farm impact can seem difficult Read More
Stewardship‘Gonna Fly Now’ with Environmental Respect
July 20, 2017
One of the most memorable moments in movie history occurred in the Academy Award-winning 1976 film “Rocky.” Haven gotten his Read More
Trending Articles
Iowa waterways
Stewardship2,600 Iowa Farmers Commit $8.7 Million to Water Quality Practices
August 9, 2017
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced Tuesday that a record number of Iowa farmers signed up to install nutrient Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
CropLife 100Cause of Gar Tootelian Fire Under Investigation
August 7, 2017
Over one hundred firefighters and equipment responded to a four-alarm shop fire at the Gar Tootelian, Inc. (GAR) facility in Read More
Rob Versprille
ManagementCeres Solutions, North Central Co-op Merger to Bring New Opportunities for Indiana, Michigan Farmers
August 1, 2017
More than 40,000 customers and almost 9,000 Indiana and Michigan farmers will begin doing business with the new Ceres Solutions Read More
CPS-Norwood-and-Dupont-reps
Eric SfiligojA Message to Ag Retailers: Do Tell Your Good Stories
July 26, 2017
As the daughter of a peanut farmer, Krysta Harden, Chief Sustainability Officer for DuPont Crop Protection, understands the importance ag Read More
Tim Hassinger Dow AgroSciences President and CEO
Crop InputsDow’s Tim Hassinger Named President, CEO of Lindsay Corp.
July 24, 2017
Lindsay Corp. has  announced the appointment of Timothy Hassinger as president and CEO and a member of its board of Read More
Stewardship‘Gonna Fly Now’ with Environmental Respect
July 20, 2017
One of the most memorable moments in movie history occurred in the Academy Award-winning 1976 film “Rocky.” Haven gotten his Read More
Latest News
Corn Seed
Seed/BiotechSeed Innovations Benefit All of the Seed Industry
August 17, 2017
Innovations from throughout the seed industry help address many of the economic, environmental and health issues we face as a Read More
SpreadersGVM to Introduce New Prowler at MAGIE
August 17, 2017
The newest Prowler in GVM’s line-up will be introduced next week at the Midwest Ag Industries Expo (MAGIE), August 23 Read More
AcreEdge bag
Seed/BiotechLandus Cooperative’s AcreEdge Seed Brand Gears Up for 2…
August 17, 2017
Growers in more than 26 Iowa and Minnesota counties are seeing field signs with a new brand name at end Read More
Engenia soybeans
ManagementCorn and Soybean Yield Forecasts Larger than Expected
August 17, 2017
The USDA’s August Crop Production report contained larger-than-expected forecasts for the 2017 U.S. corn and soybean crops. At 169.5 bushels Read More
ManagementU.S. Ag Secretary Introduces SCORE
August 17, 2017
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a new agreement to support new and beginning farmers. On August 5, Perdue joined Read More
CHS-FFA-Minnesota
CropLife 100CHS and FFA: A Homerun Partnership
August 17, 2017
CHS hosted the Minnesota FFA for its annual FFA night at CHS Field. FFA students, educators and CHS leadership enjoyed Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
CropLife 100Gar Tootelian Foundation Donates Half Million Dollars t…
August 16, 2017
Students at Immanuel Elementary are looking forward to the first day of school for two reasons this year. One, they Read More
Water Drainage
StewardshipNew System Could Remove Two Water Pollutants from Ag Fi…
August 14, 2017
Algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico use up the majority of the oxygen in the water, leading to massive Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Top 10 Crop Protection Companies, Post-Mega Mergers
August 14, 2017
Everyone loves a good Top 10 list. In fact, some prominent celebrities such as David Letterman spent much of their Read More
ManagementThe DuPont-Granular Deal, Dicamba Update, and Upcoming …
August 11, 2017
Matthew Grassi joins Paul Schrimpf for the second week in a row to talk about DuPont’s acquisition of Granular, as Read More
Soybeans weeds
HerbicidesOngoing Evaluation Key to Controlling Weeds, Improving …
August 10, 2017
As the sun bears down on record U.S. soybean acres this August, farmers keep their eyes on their fields to Read More
Young Corn Plants
Seed/BiotechMycogen Seeds Offers Novel Product to Battle Pythium, O…
August 10, 2017
After a season plagued by seedling diseases caused by cool, wet soils at planting, farmers have a new option to Read More
Corn Field
FertilizerProtect Applied Manure Straight From the Manure Pit to …
August 10, 2017
Farmers who use liquid manure to fertilize corn crops can now mix Instinct nitrogen stabilizer in their pit for easy Read More
Iowa waterways
Stewardship2,600 Iowa Farmers Commit $8.7 Million to Water Quality…
August 9, 2017
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced Tuesday that a record number of Iowa farmers signed up to install nutrient Read More
Natives-First-Purple_Prairie_Clover
Seed/BiotechLa Crosse Seed Continues Focus on Soil and Water Conser…
August 9, 2017
La Crosse Seed is doing its part to lead communication to ag retailers across the country on the importance of Read More
HerbicidesAg Secretary Perdue Comments on Dicamba Issue
August 9, 2017
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue indicated to reporters this week that he would like to see the industry work out a Read More
Treated-Seed-in-planter
Seed/BiotechSeed Treatment Q&A: Insight from Iowa State’s…
August 8, 2017
Technology has changed drastically since the 1990s. Televisions are thinner, phones are smaller and tractors can steer themselves. Technology has Read More
soybeans
Seed/BiotechWhen and Why to Double Inoculate Your Soybeans
August 8, 2017
Double inoculation is the act of using a double application of a rhizobial inoculant. This quickly establishes high populations of Read More