Thirteen-year stover harvest and tillage effects on soil compaction in Iowa

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Phillips, Claire L.
Logsdon, Sally D.
Malone, Robert W.
O’Brien, Peter L.
Emmett, Bryan D.
Karlen, Douglas
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Wiley Periodicals LLC
Tekeste, Mehari
Associate Professor
Ebrahimi, Elnaz
Assistant Teaching Professor
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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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The Department of Agronomy seeks to teach the study of the farm-field, its crops, and its science and management. It originally consisted of three sub-departments to do this: Soils, Farm-Crops, and Agricultural Engineering (which became its own department in 1907). Today, the department teaches crop sciences and breeding, soil sciences, meteorology, agroecology, and biotechnology.

The Department of Agronomy was formed in 1902. From 1917 to 1935 it was known as the Department of Farm Crops and Soils.

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  • Department of Farm Crops and Soils (1917–1935)

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Agricultural and Biosystems EngineeringAgronomy
Corn (Zea mays L.) stover is an abundant biomass source with multiple end-uses including cellulosic biofuel production. However, stover removal may increase soil compaction by reducing organic matter inputs and increasing vehicle loads during harvest. While numerous studies have reported stover removal impacts on soil physical quality, few have assessed the role played by traffic compaction. Our objective was to quantify subsurface soil compaction after 13 years of chisel plow versus no-till management and no, moderate (3.5 ± 1.1 Mg ha−1 year−1), or high (5.0 ± 1.7 Mg ha−1 year−1) stover harvest rates. Penetration resistance was measured in most- and least-trafficked interrow spaces. Chisel plowed plots with moderate and high levels of stover removal had higher penetration resistance in trafficked areas relative to least-trafficked areas, whereas there was no evidence of traffic compaction when stover was retained. Traffic compaction did not negatively impact yields, which were greater with high levels of stover removal compared to no removal. The no-till practice led to very small increases in penetration resistance with wheel traffic and had no evidence of increased compaction with residue removal. This lack of traffic compaction indicated soils under no-till practice have a higher load-bearing capacity than soils under chisel plow practice. Overall, there were no yield-limiting effects of tillage practice or stover removal, and no evidence of soil compaction below the plow layer, suggesting stover removal with both tillage practices can be effectively employed without detrimental effects on plant or soil health.
This is the published version of the following article: Phillips, Claire L., Mehari Z. Tekeste, Elnaz Ebrahimi, Sally D. Logsdon, Robert W. Malone, Peter L. O'Brien, Bryan D. Emmett, and Douglas Karlen. "Thirteen‐year stover harvest and tillage effects on soil compaction in Iowa." Agrosystems, Geosciences & Environment 6, no. 2 (2023): e20361. DOI: 10.1002/agg2.20361. Copyright 2023 The Authors. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). Posted with permission.