Residue removal and potential environmental consequences
Post-harvest residues provide a critical source of soil carbon, protection to the soil surface against water and wind erosion, and assist in improvement of soil quality. Corn stover harvested for ethanol production reduces the amount of residue returned to the soil. The removal of corn residue from both tilled and no-till soils can lead to surface water runoff and sediment loss. Sustainable stover removal rates depend on several factors that include soil erodibility, surface slope, cultural practices, and climate conditions. Recent studies suggest that only 20 to 30 percent of the total stover production could be removed for biofuel, based on ground cover requirements to control soil erosion.