After corn harvest is complete, mostly stalks and stover remain in the fields. What farmers decide to do with those commodities can depend on a number of circumstances, but there is much that can be done.
Corn Stalk Bales
Farmers sometimes choose to rake their stalks into rows and then bale them for livestock uses such as forage mixtures and bedding. Many times corn stalks are fed with distillers grain to livestock as a replacement to regular corn. The bales also provide excellent bedding, especially during the late winter and spring months when many folks are calving and the ground is typically soggy.
Sometimes farmers are fortunate to have cattle close in proximity to their corn fields allowing them to relieve their pastures and graze the grounds picking up the leftover ears, leaves and other plant remains. This is a double benefit as the cattle have plenty to eat and leave behind their manure supplying organic fertilizer for next year’s growing season.
As the country moves forward and seeks new ways to create low-carbon, renewable, transportation fuels, corn stover is one of the feedstocks that will allow us to do so. In fact there is a POET Biorefinning plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa doing just that.
Some farmers feel that doing nothing with their stalks and stover give them the greatest benefit because it allows the plant to break down giving the nutrients that it had absorbed back to the soil. Leaving the residue behind also provides excellent protection from erosion and enhances the soils’ ability to absorb and retain moisture.