Ten-Year Assessment Encourages No-Till for Corn Grain and Stover Harvest

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Obrycki, John
Kovar, John
Karlen, Douglas
Birrell, Stuart
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Birrell, Stuart
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Developing a bio-economy by harvesting crop residues from highly productive corn (Zea mays L.) cropping systems requires science-based management decisions to maintain or enhance grain yield and soil, water, and air resources. Which tillage and stover harvest practices are best for accomplishing these goals? Continuous corn grain yield response to either no-till or chisel plowing with two stover harvest rates (3.4 or 5.1 Mg ha−1 yr−1) was evaluated for 10 yr in central Iowa. Each tillage and stover removal combination was replicated four times. Year-to-year variation affected grain yield more than tillage practice (0.2 Mg ha−1) or stover removal (0.1 Mg ha−1). Grain yields were not statistically different (p = 0.33) between tillage systems. Including machinery costs made return on investment for chisel plow and no-till equivalent even though no-till yields were numerically lower. Net stover income per megagram was US$2 to $4 greater at the 3.4 versus 5.1 Mg ha−1 harvest rate because of more efficient harvesting. Among the four practices, no-till with 3.4 Mg ha−1 stover harvest met multiple goals, including providing acceptable corn grain yields, positive net income per megagram stover, and sufficient residues to protect the soil.


This article is published as Obrycki, John F., John L. Kovar, Douglas L. Karlen, and Stuart J. Birrell. "Ten-Year Assessment Encourages No-Till for Corn Grain and Stover Harvest." Agricultural & Environmental Letters 3, no. 1 (2018). DOI: 10.2134/ael2018.06.0034.