Main research question/goal
In this project, we assess the possibilities and consequences of harvesting corn stover. What is the export of organic matter, nitrogen and phosphorus by removing the corn stover of a range of maize varieties? We test if a good balance can be found between grain yield, moisture content of the grain and certitude of harvest on the one hand, and a high number of cobs and husks on the other. We assess the amount of corn stover removed and the intrusion of soil particles in the field at harvest. Can the collected corn stover be stored by ensiling? What are the options for supplying effective organic matter for compensating the removal of carbon with the corn stover?Research approach
We measure the potential residual plant fraction of maize for 20 corn maize varieties tested at four locations. We calculated the potential C, N and P export when corn stover is removed. We look at the effect of choice of variety on maize stover biomass, and if corn stover biomass and grain yield can both be optimised. We assess the efficiency of collection of residual corn stover on four fields. The collected plant material is stored in wrapped square bales, and several silage additives are tested. During storage, the quality of the bales is monitored. We assess the feasibility for applying catch crops and compost to compensate for the export of corn stover organic matter.Relevance/Valorisation
In Flanders a substantial amount of corn is cultivated for wet or dry corn grain (9.9% of the area under agriculture in 2012). The cobs, husks, leaves and stalks remain as crop residue on the field and are an important source of organic matter for maintaining soil fertility. After harvest of corn maize, the residual aboveground plant can be collected to be used as substrate for anaerobic digestion to cope with the increasing demand for plant biomass for green energy production. In this way, farmers are testing the option of combining grain production for animal feed with corn stover collection and ensiling for anaerobic digestion.