Tillage – Can it leave over 30 Percent Residue Cover?

Above: The residue remaining after cereal harvest with straw spread back on the field.

Leaving 30% crop residue has been proven to minimize top soil losses from wind and water erosion. But what does 30% soil cover look like? Do certain tillage implements leave less than 30% crop residue? Crop residue in the form of corn stalks or cereal straw, or green cover (growing crops or cover crops) are all effective ways to achieve 30% cover. In a demonstration at the Outdoor Farm Show in 2012 we learned that if we remove straw from a cereal crop and follow with any type of tillage we retain less than 30% residue. However, the tillage action stimulated a more uniform germination of volunteer cereals which increased total soil cover to well over 30%. The following photographs illustrate crop residue cover after tillage action on two differently managed field scenarios.

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