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Agronomic Design Principles: Crop Residue Management


Experts say that what you do during harvest can have a big impact in the spring. In this installment of our Agronomic Design principles series, we’re talking about the importance of leaving behind the right amount and type of residue at harvest time.

How does your operation manage crop residue during harvesting?

Dr. Fred Below, Crop Sciences Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says today’s biggest challenge for managing residue begins with the quest for high yields.

“While residue is good because it helps build up soil organic matter, the problem occurs when it is so thick that it slows down the warming up of soil and drying down in the spring. That can impact seed/soil contact in crop emergence,” says Below.

Fred Below Agronomic Design Principles: Crop Residue Management

Dr. Fred Below, Crop Sciences Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Below adds that if the plants don’t emerge at the same time, you’re not getting the full value out of the seed. He recommends that combines be set to help fields maximize the creation of organic matter during the winter months.

“Anything that growers can do to size that residue, evenly spread residue and put that residue in contact with the soil surface is what allows it to begin breaking down,” he says.

Kelly Kravig, Case IH Combine and Header Marketing Manager, says that Case IH Axial-Flow® combines are built with Agronomic Design to help producers maximize their yields. When it comes to crop residue management, he says their goal is to spread residue evenly across the entire header width, promoting successful spring emergence. To do that, Case IH offers a wide range of options for various producers.

“On the Case IH 230 series combines, there are at least nine chopper and spreader options to fit any producer’s needs. From a standard beater needed in Kansas wheat fields to the 120-blade MagnaCut Extra Fine Cut Chopper for Western Canadian wheat fields, Case IH has what you need to do the job right,” Kravig says.

Axial Flow 9230 Combine 228x152 Agronomic Design Principles: Crop Residue Management

Case IH Axial-Flow combines are designed to spread residue evenly across the entire header width.

After residue is appropriately sized, optional in-cab controls allow the operator to control spreader speed and hood angles to get the most even coverage without having to leave the combine.

“We all know we can’t help the weather, so when you’re harvesting and you have a strong side wind blowing residue into the standing crop, this feature on Case IH combines allows the producer to adjust the angle of the spreader right from the cab to compensate for that wind,” says Kravig.

It’s difficult for experts to quantify the value of proper crop residue management, but they say that doing it right will affect spring emergence and, in turn, next season’s yields.

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