Carbon-capture opportunity as combines roll through corn in central-west Iowa

On Sept. 4 we anticipated a nutrient-recycling opportunity following an early harvest in drought-hit areas of the central-western Corn Belt. That's happening now. Here's the strategy we encourage to get an early start on cover crops and residue recycling.

September 15, 2020 — Yesterday, agronomist Mike Williams sent us the field photo below, taken in Pocahontas County as an example of unusually advanced corn harvest. In an earlier story, we encouraged taking advantage of early harvest to gain an edge on fall nutrient recycling by spraying residue with a live microbial mix to accelerate conversion of lignin and cellulose into nutrients for next season.  Also see consultant Brad Forkner's rationale for residue recycling at this link.

Even if you've already stored your sprayer for winter, it's worth cleaning it out with a bit of WakeUP and then applying a residue digester such as Biodyne USA's Meltdown. We have Meltdown available here at Renewable Farming (Call Erik at 319-610-2506). Cost of Meltdown at a quart per acre is $10.50 per acre. It's a complete mix including "starter" nutrients to kick off microbial bloom. You can also use Biodyne's original stubble digester, Environoc 501, for $8.56 per acre. Many farmers add a gallon or two of 28% nitrogen to their residue digestion mix. It can also be tank-mixed with a fall residual weed spray.

The granddaddy of residue digesters, Residuce, is $8.65 per acre plus whatever microbe nutrient you add such as sugar, nitrogen, sulfur or something else.

Visit this link to learn more about Meltdown, which is sprayed at 32 ounces per acre.

We've previously suggested a thorough shredding of stalks with a flail chopper before spraying, or as you spray. But another stalk-cracking tool is the Yetter Devastator, which mounts under your combine header and crimps the stalks as you combine.

If you chisel plow, spraying ahead of that tillage job captures value from cornstalks.

This is not a sophisticated application that calls for precision GPS. An old $3,000 pull-type sprayer, a utility tractor and a helper can do the job while you focus on combining. 

Across much of central Iowa, some farmers are opting to shred or disk derecho-flattened corn rather than trying to salvage it. This is another good opportunity for spraying with a residue digesting product before shredding or disking. Farm Journal Field agronomist Ken Ferrie is advising farmers with seriously damaged corn to "walk away" from the corn, take the insurance and turn the 2020 downed corn into mulch soon as possible.