If you are a relatively new farmer who has been processing corn crops for only a few years, then you may be surprised to notice an increase in the amount of waste, or stover, that builds on your farmland once your combine is used to remove the corn. Stover is a combination of corn stalks and leaves that can be good for the soil. The residue can decompose and help with the rebuilding of organic compounds, like nitrogen, that feed new crops. However, too much stover can lead to decomposition issues and a buildup of debris on your fields. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can cut down on stover debris.
Buy A New Combine Head
Some farmers will collect stover and sell it for $60 or a bit less for a dry ton. If you live in a cold-weather area, then the corn stalks and leaves can be used to feed livestock throughout the winter. If one or several dairy farms are located nearby, then bale the stover to sell to neighboring farms to increase crop yields and profits for your farm.
If you want to gather and bale the corn residue easily, then purchase a cornrower head attachment for your combine. This header will chop, cut, and gather the stalks and leaves and leave them in windrows so they can be dried. Balers can then be used to collect and bale the debris. If you have a smaller farm and want to keep costs down, then opt for a small, stationary bailer instead of an automatic bailer pulled behind your tractor.
If you do not live in a cold-weather area or if you do not want to invest the time and money on the collection of stover, then purchase a residue-processing head for your combine instead. The best heads are considered aggressive heads that cut, chop, and bend stalks and leaves as much as possible. This helps to increase the surface area of the residue, and it also forces the debris into the soil when you till. This helps the nutrients from the stover to leach into the dirt. If you intend on tilling the soil in the fall, then opt for either a chopping or cutting combine head. These heads will cut the stover into strips that can be forced into the soil with your tiller.
If you have a no-till farm, then a head that crushes or bends the stalks will be a good idea. The head will leave the debris more whole, but it will damage stalks a great deal. The damage leaves folds, holes, and other openings so moisture can break down the debris easier.
Combine heads that crush or fold use much less power and fuel than the more aggressive cutting heads. However, you will need a powerful planter in the spring to work through the stover that has not decomposed from the previous year.
If you're looking for parts for your combine, contact a company like TractorTool for more information.
Be Cautious With Fungicides
If you are farming in an area that receives a great deal of rainfall, then your corn is susceptible to mold and mildew growth. The spread of fungi throughout your corn can severely reduce crop yields. Fungicides are likely a necessity on your farm. However, fungicides can keep your corn debris from properly decomposing. After all, microorganisms are required to decompose the leaves and stalks.
If you want to ensure a healthy crop, but also want to cut down on fungicides, then purchase seeds for corn hybrids that are resistant to fungal diseases like blight. Speak with your seed retailer about the hybrids to choose the best seeds for your area. Not only will this help to ensure decomposition of stover, but it will reduce your fungicide costs. This means a greater return for your farm and increased profits.