Publications Plus online catalog
This Land
60 Ways Farmers Can Protect  Surface Water
50 ways 57 ways 60 ways

1. Distribute Residue Evenly At Harvest


Surface cover management, the key to erosion-control, begins at harvest.

If you distribute residue unevenly at harvest, the resulting windrows or bunches can create a number of problems. . .  

Unevenly Distributed residue could mean... . . . the need for additional tillage to redistribute residue; weed and insect problems; plugged equipment; poor seed placement with a no-till planter that is not equipped with row cleaners. . .  
Unevenly Distributed residue could mean... . . . very wet soil under thick deposits of residue when the rest of the field is ready to plant; delayed soil warming and seedling emergence where residue is thick; deformed plants as plants are forced to grow through and around heavy amounts of residue; and interference with pesticides.  
residue moving through a combine A large portion of the residue moving through a combine passes over the straw walkers of a conventional combine or out the end of the rotar cage of a rotary combine. This residue can be allowed to fall on the ground, but it is preferable to distribute it evenly on the soil surface by either a straw chopper or a straw spreader.
combine A significant percentage of the residue passing through the combine is small or broken up into small material, normally called chaff. Chaff passes through the concaves or straw walkers of the combine, then moves to the chaffer sieve. Chaff on the chaffer sieve is either blown out or drops out the back of the combine. This chaff drops directly to the ground, never reaching the straw chopper or spreader.
chaff spreader The solution is to install a chaff spreader, which typically uses two spinning disks with rotating batts to throw the chaff in all directions behind the combine. Ideally, chaff and residue should be distributed evenly across the entire harvested width.

University of Illinois Logo