Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Saving the soil and maintaining corn yields: ISU early research says yes to both

16.06.2010
Two years into a study looking at methods of combining a living cover crop between corn rows shows that yield can be maintained at high levels using environmentally friendly practices.

Researchers are testing between-row cover grasses as part of research looking at ways to reduce soil runoff and keep vital nutrients in the soils while crop residue, called stover, is removed from farm fields to produce biofuels.

With U.S. government targets requiring a 30 percent displacement of petroleum consumption with fuels made from biomass by the year 2030, agronomy researchers are studying methods of harvesting more and more stover, which previously was left on the field.

Targets will require removing 75 percent of stover to use as biomass in the production of biofuels.

Removing stover can cause more water runoff and deplete soil of the organic material needed to remain productive.

One method of keeping the soil in place and replenished with organic matter is to plant grasses between the corn rows that would stay on the field year round.

"We are looking at trying to grow corn in a perennial sod, so that we can protect the soil and provide these other environmental services at the same time," said Ken Moore, professor of agronomy.

Developing a cover crop system that allows nutrients, organic matter, water and carbon to remain in the soil is a great idea. But farmers won't do it if it reduces yields, said Moore.

The results so far have been very encouraging.

After the first two years of the study, researchers have already discovered a system that allows for removal of up to 95 percent of the corn stover, increases the amount of carbon kept in the soil, increases water use efficiency in corn and also maintains corn yield.

Jeremy Singer, assistant professor of agronomy and researcher at the USDA's National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, and Ken Moore, professor of agronomy, take a look at test plots where they are studying how to keep yields high while introducing a cover-crop to improve soil. One cropping system the team examined in 2009, for example, increased harvest from 11,867 kilograms of corn grain per hectare using traditional production methods, to 12,768 kg/ha with the new system. All while improving the soil and harvesting almost all the stover.

The researchers are quick to point out they are not ready to proclaim that they have uncovered the perfect system, but they are encouraged.

"It's remarkable," said Jeremy Singer, assistant professor of agronomy and researcher at the USDA's National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment in Ames. "Even in two bizarre years - 2008 was the year of the floods and 2009 had the coolest July on record -- we harvested close to 100 percent of the corn stover and we're obtaining similar yields as the no-ground cover control, while increasing carbon additions to the soil."

The team tested more than 36 different ground covers, mostly grasses; different tillage systems such as no-till and strip-till; 50 different corn hybrids; and several chemical treatments.

One of the keys, according to the researchers, is finding a ground cover grass that is less active during the spring. This allows the corn to absorb needed water and sunlight at the beginning of the growing season without competing with the ground cover grass.

Later in the spring, as the corn creates a canopy over the shorter grasses, there is less competition for sunlight and nutrients as the corn becomes dominant.

Having more than one species thrive on the same piece of ground is not a new idea, says Moore. Traditional prairies contained many different species of grasses and plants that complemented each other as they competed for water, sun and other inputs.

"From an ecological perspective, it seems intuitive that we can do this," said Moore. "Nature does it all the time. The prairies that existed before farmers got here were complex plant communities that change with the season. And we have a succession of species which we are trying to set up here."

Moore says one of the best features of the new systems is they are not that different from the way producers are currently farming.

"We are not talking about changing the whole system," said Moore. "We are talking about changing the way we use what we already have. It's just how you do it to make it work better."

Ken Moore | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.iastate.edu

Further reports about: Biofuels Environment agriculture corn yields petroleum consumption

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Climate change, population growth may lead to open ocean aquaculture
05.10.2017 | Oregon State University

nachricht New machine evaluates soybean at harvest for quality
04.10.2017 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ocean atmosphere rife with microbes

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Neutrons observe vitamin B6-dependent enzyme activity useful for drug development

17.10.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA finds newly formed tropical storm lan over open waters

17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>