U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Document Type


Date of this Version

January 1986


Published in Agron. J. 78:184-189 (1986).


Crop residues (stover) have many potential uses by society: food, feed, shelter, fuel, and soil amendment. Use of residues for purposes other than as a soil amendment may have serious negative consequences on crop productivity. This study was conducted to investigate the yield response of continuous corn (Zea mays L.) and continuous soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] to removal or addition of crop residues under no-tillage management. The study was conducted near Lincoln, NE, on a Crete-Butler silty clay loam (fine, montmorillonitic, mesic Pachic Arguistoll-Abruptic Argiaquoll) with 1 to 2% slope. Crop residue was collected and weighed immediately after harvest in autumn. Quantity of residue to be returned to each treatment (0, 50, 100, or 150% of that produced) was calculated and uniformly spread over the plot area (12.2 by 12.2 m) by hand. Corn and soybean were planted into the established residue levels with no tillage the following spring. Data were collected on soil water, soil temperature, and grain and residue yield. A positive linear response was found between grain and stover yield and amount of residue applied to the soil surface. Each Mg ha-1 of residue removed resulted in about a 0.10 Mg ha-1 reduction in grain yield and a 0.30 Mg ha-1 reduction in residue yield. Quantity of applied residue accounted for 81 and 84% of the variation in grain yield of corn and soybean, respectively, and 88 and 92% of the variation in residue yield. Amounts of stored soil water at planting were closely associated with quantity of residue applied the previous year. Differences in total available water (soil storage at planting plus rainfall) accounted for approximately 70% of the yield variation associated with the residue treatments. Soil temperature (50-mm depth) and total available water accounted for nearly the same amount of variation in yield (80 to 90%) as quantity of residue, emphasizing the importance of these factors in evaluating response of crops to residue-management practices. Residue removal reduced grain and residue yields by amounts equal to 10 and 30%, respectively, of the quantity of residue removed. Residue effects on crop yield were induced mainly through changes in soil water and soil temperature.