Soybean School: What to do with corn residue


Corn yield records are made to be broken. That was certainly the case in Ontario in 2021 when the provincial average topped 200 bushels per acre, smashing the previous average yield mark.

But all the corn brings with it an abundance of organic matter to return to the soil. When it comes to soil health all that residue is precious, but it can cause headaches for growers who plant a following soybean crop. On this episode of RealAgriculture’s Soybean School we catch up with PRIDE Seeds market agronomist Matt Chapple for some ideas on how growers can best manage all that organic matter as they head into soybean planting.

Corn stalks produced about one ton of dry matter residue for every 40 bu/ac. That means an average Ontario cornfield will produce about five tons of residue. What’s a soybean grower to do? Chapple says the best strategy depends on a host of individual factors. In the video, he explains that assessing the decomposition and positioning of the residue is key. In this field he notes that much of the residue is sitting up and concentrated along the base of last year’s corn stalks. That bodes well for no-till soybeans, which can be planted with a well set-up planter that includes row cleaners and adequate downforce to clear trash between the corn rows, promote a drier, warmer seedbed, and ensure good seed-to-soil contact.

Chapple says tillage is an option, but growers will have to assess each field on an individual basis. In this field, tillage could cause some headaches. Tillage would uproot and scatter corn root balls, creating a bumpy ride for the planter, and there’s potential for a compaction layer in the wet soil if tillage gets too aggressive.

Chapple offers tips for planter set-up and whether it’s better to plant along the corn row or across it. He also discusses planting date considerations, noting that mounting research data indicates growers have a wide planting window — from April 20 to May 15 — before yield potential significantly declines.

Slugs are another thing to watch for in high-residue environments. They don’t like sunshine and they don’t like the warm, dry band of soil where the soybeans are growing, notes Chapple. He says patience and planter set-up are two keys to minimizing the impact of this pest.

Click here for more Soybean School videos.

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Soybean School (view all)Season 11 (2022) Episode 25

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