American farmers are now being asked to produce food, feed, fiber, and fuel. My goal is to provide you, as soil and crop consultants, information that will help your clients achieve these multiple goals in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner. We will review the potential unintended consequences of increasing corn grain production for ethanol and discuss developments for harvesting corn stover as a cellulosic feedstock. The importance of maintaining or increasing soil carbon and its potential to limit the amount of crop residue that can be removed is discussed. Initial results from Iowa show a average yield penalty of 10% where corn (Zea mays L.) was grown for the third consecutive year and a 50% reduction in soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.], where corn stover was removed from a site with low soil-test P, K and organic matter. We’ll conclude with ideas for how producers might balance the multiple demands being placed on their time and natural resource base, thus enabling the nation to address bioenergy, water quality, carbon sequestration, erosion, wildlife and other community issues in a truly sustainable manner.
Soil Science Extension
University of Wisconsin Madison