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SWEEP Report #21

Efficiency of Residue Management for Providing Optimal Corn Growing Conditions in a Non-tilled Sandy Loam

M.C. Fortin, Southwestern Ontario Agricultural Research Corporation (SWOARC), Harrow, Ontario

Executive Summary

Evaluation Summary (Tech. Transfer Report Summaries)

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Associated SWEEP/LSP Research


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Completed: March, 1991

Key Words:

crop residue, corn, no-till, conventional tillage, soil temperature, soil moisture, early plant development, phytotoxicity, trash whippers, hybrid variability, bulk density, emergence, residue management

Executive Summary

No-till corn production is a soil conserving system that presents several challenges in terms of crop performance. The presence of crop residues on the soil surface results in many changes of physical, chemical and biological nature. These changes concern mainly soil temperature but also, soil water content, nutrient availability and phytotoxicity. In order to distinguish between residue effects on corn due to low soil temperatures from other residue effects, corn development was related to soil temperature for eight different types of residue covers: grain corn, spring canola, spring barley, spring barley and red clover killed early or killed late, soybean, soybean and fall rye killed early or killed late. Analysis shows that only corn plants growing in canola residues may have been delayed by a factor other than soil temperature.

The changes in soil temperature result almost invariably in delaying development of a corn crop when residue-covered soil is compared to a bare soil. The objective of another study was to determine if clearing the residues off the row in the interrow could alleviate the problem and improve the water status of a droughty soil. This management study showed that half of the delay (5 days) due to the presence of residues on the no-till plots could be avoided by clearing the residues off the row. This practice did not have much effect on water content when the plants had attained a large size. Two hybrids previously rated well and less-well suited for no-till production in 1988 in Huron county were used in the study. The hybrid rated less-well suited for no-till production yielded more grain per plant than the other hybrid. These hybrids were also used in another study designed to address the problem of uneven plant emergence and final establishment in no-till corn production. This problem is due to changes in surface properties of no-till compared to conventional tillage. There was a need to measure the variability of emergence and try to correlate it to some selected soil properties. The soil properties studied were soil water content, bulk density and seed depth. Bulk density was negatively correlated to emergence in conventional plots and water content was negatively correlated to emergence in no-till plots. The emergence of the hybrid rated less well-suited for no-till production in 1988 was less variable and less sensitive to seed zone environmental conditions than that of the hybrid rated well-suited for no-till production.


Evaluation Summary

(From Technology Transfer Report Summaries - A. Hayes, L. Cruickshank, Co-Chairs)

The goal of the one year study was to determine whether:

  1. Removal of crop residues from the row would increase the rate of early corn development.

  2. Presence of residues in the soil would improve the water status of sandy soil.

  3. Two hybrids would perform similarly for a second year in a different location.

The residue management treatments used in the study were: conventional tillage (spring moldboard), first year no-till (residue untouched, residue removed, residue removed from row area).

Residue management (complete removal of residue) affected corn emergence. Removing residue from the row area did not result in earlier emergence when compared to no-till. Growth stages were different for the various tillage systems. The data shows the differences are due to soil temperature. Plant growth in the no-till treatments was similar or better than the conventional treatment in all cases. There was little difference in the soil water content in the rows regardless of whether residue was removed. However, the no-till treatments had significantly higher interrow water contents than did the conventional treatment. This difference could be due to the absence of tillage in the fall and spring rather than the presence of residues on the surface. Droughty soils benefited to a limited degree with no tillage.

Of the two hybrids studied, Pioneer 3790 is more sensitive to seed zone environmental conditions than 3902 and may not be suited to no-till conditions. Both hybrids showed negative correlation with soil water content and no correlation with seed depth or bulk density.

The study did show that corn planted into canola residue may have been delayed by a factor other than soil temperature. More study is needed to determine if there are potential allelopathic chemicals released from the canola residue.


Good information in this study although it should have been carried out for a longer time period (longer than 1 year).

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research:

  • SWEEP Report #59 - Evaluation of 58 Commercial Corn Hybrids (2850 to 3450 C.H.U.) in Two Conservation Tillage Systems Compared to Conventional Tillage in Kent County, Southwestern Ontario

  • SWEEP Report #22 - Field Emergence Predictors for Grain Corn Under No-Till Management

  • SWEEP Report #56 - Yield Reduction Effects of Crop Residues in Conservation Tillage

  • SWEEP Report #57B - Effect of Winter Rye Mulches and Fertilizer Amendments on Nutrient and Weed Dynamics in No-Till Soybeans.

Future Research: ( ) indicates reviewers suggestion for priority, A - high, C - low.

(B) Research into allelopathic affects of different residues (canola). The study should be carried out for a longer period of time and on several soil types.




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Created: 05-28-1996
Last Revised: Thursday, May 19, 2011 02:12:02 PM