Residue. A common term found throughout cropland management. Resource management places emphasis on the importance of residue in crop fields, but what exactly are the benefits? For starters, a raindrop the size of a housefly falls at approximately 20 mph. This raindrop can cause erosion solely by the force of the impact. Residue limits “splash erosion” and increases water retention in the soil, which in turn produces healthier, more vigorous crops. Second, residue aids in the soil surface’s protection from the sun’s rays and the drying effects of wind by reducing the evaporation rate. In a sense, residue acts as a shield from solar radiation during hot days and as a blanket during cooler nights. This translates to less water being lost to evaporation and more water being secured for crop production through infiltration. Last, our soils are alive with constant activity from a diversity of organisms. Residue increases this biological activity for such organisms as earthworms, fungi, burrowing mammals, and insects because the residue acts as both a food source and habitat cover from predators. In turn, these beneficial organisms may produce additional soil pores and even attack crop pests. An increase in soil pores may result in improved oxidation, infiltration, and better root establishment for crops. In sum, leaving residue stands for longer periods of time and reducing tillage operations, such as a Direct Seed method, may just be the key to increasing crop yields. For more information on soil health practices and benefits, contact a Foster Creek CD staff member today!
For more information on the role and importance of residues, check out this FAO bulletin!