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


Date of this Version



Bioenerg. Res. (2010) 3:342–352; DOI 10.1007/s12155-010-9093-3


One-pass harvest equipment has been developed to collect corn (Zea mays L.) grain, stover, and cobs that can be used as bioenergy feedstock. Nutrients removed in these feedstocks have soil fertility implication and affect feedstock quality. The study objectives were to quantify nutrient concentrations and potential removal as a function of cutting height, plant organ, and physiological stage. Plant samples were collected in 10-cm increments at seven diverse geographic locations at two maturities and analyzed for multiple elements. At grain harvest, nutrient concentration averaged 5.5 gN kg−1, 0.5 gP kg−1, and 6.2 gK kg−1 in cobs, 7.5 gN kg−1, 1.2 gP kg−1, and 8.7 gK kg−1 in the above-ear stover fraction, and 6.4 gN kg−1, 1.0 gP kg−1, and 10.7 g K kg−1 in the below-ear stover fraction (stover fractions exclude cobs). The average collective cost to replace N, P, and K was $11.66 Mg−1 for cobs, $17.59 Mg−1 for above-ear stover, and $18.11 Mg−1 for below-ear stover. If 3 Mg ha−1 of above-ear stover fraction plus 1 Mg of cobs are harvested, an average N, P, and K replacement cost was estimated at $64 ha−1. Collecting cobs or above-ear stover fraction may provide a higher quality feedstock while removing fewer nutrients compared to whole stover removal. This information will enable producers to balance soil fertility by adjusting fertilizer rates and to sustain soil quality by predicting C removal for different harvest scenarios. It also provides elemental information to the bioenergy industry.