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


Document Type


Date of this Version



2011 by the American Society of Agronomy


Agronomy Journal • Volume 103, Issue 1 • 2011



Harvesting feedstock for biofuel production must not degrade soil, water, or air resources. Our objective is to provide an overview of field research being conducted to quantify effects of harvesting corn (Zea mays L.) stover as a bioenergy feedstock. Coordinated fi eld studies are being conducted near Ames, IA; St. Paul and Morris, MN; Mead, NE; University Park, PA; Florence, SC; and Brookings, SD., as part of the USDA-ARS Renewable Energy Assessment Project (REAP). A baseline soil quality assessment was made using the Soil Management Assessment Framework (SMAF). Corn grain and residue yield for two diff erent stover harvest rates (~50% and ~90%) are being measured. Available soil data remains quite limited but suffi cient for an initial SMAF analysis that confirms total organic carbon (TOC) is a soil quality indicator that needs to be closely monitored closely to quantify crop residue removal eff cts. Overall, grain yields averaged 9.7 and 11.7 Mg ha–1 (155 and 186 bu acre–1) in 2008 and 2009, values that are consistent with national averages for both years. Th e average amount of stover collected for the 50% treatment was 2.6 and 4.2 Mg ha–1 for 2008 and 2009, while the 90% treatment resulted in an average removal of 5.4 and 7.4 Mg ha–1, respectively. Based on a recent literature review, both stover harvest scenarios could result in a gradual decline in TOC. However, the literature value has a large standard error, so continuation of this long-term multi-location study for several years is warranted.