August 9, 2017 Kris Cherewyk
Fall Residue Management for Successful Spring Seeding
As harvest season quickly approaches (or in some areas, continues), it is difficult to think about seeding in 2018 when the 2017 crop is still out in the field. In many areas of the prairies, a successfully planted crop in the spring depends on proper crop residue management the previous fall. Management of harvested crop residue is important in all types of cropping systems, but is especially crucial in direct (no-till) seeding. Excessive residue levels can result in delayed/uneven emergence, toolbars plugged with straw, uneven maturity and thin crop stands among other effects. In contrast, good residue management has many benefits to soil including reduced wind/water erosion, microclimate for emerging seedlings that allows for greater fertilizer efficiency and improved water infiltration.
There are many ways in which growers can manage fall crop residue with harvest time being the earliest. It is important during combining to ensure that straw is spread to 80% of the width of the cut and chaff spread to 50%; this goes for both straight-cutting and swathing. Manufacturers in recent years have offered improved options regarding straw choppers on their combines and there are after-market options available as well. Stubble height is important as taller standing stubble means less needs to pass through the combine and be spread around. That said, the stubble height cannot impede the capacity of the toolbar to pass through it without leaving clumps. Chaff spreading is especially important in crops such as canola and mustard that contain toxic substances which can hinder growth of emerging crops the following year.
Post-harvest residue management is a common practice across the prairies in both zero-till and conventional systems. Heavy harrowing is best completed immediately after harvest in hot, dry and windy conditions to maximize stubble spread. In tillage operations, chopping and incorporation of residue into the soil is a key component. Vaderstad’s Carrier tillage line offers a wide variety of options for every soil type and crop residue – and is available at all Seed Hawk retailers across the prairies.
In conclusion, a successful residue management plan in the fall will lead to a successful seeding season in the spring. It is another tool to improve the chances of producing a high quality, high yielding crop.
With files from Saskatchewan Soil Conservation Association: http://ssca.ca/index.php/residue-management