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Corn Cobs Eyed for Bioenergy Production

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image Soil scientists Brian Wienhold (left) and Gary Varvel compare corncob residue in various stages of decomposition in no-till corn in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Credit: Photo by Peggy Greb)

Corn crop residues are often left on harvested fields to protect soil quality, but they could become an important raw material in cellulosic ethanol production.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research indicates that soil quality would not decline if post-harvest corn cob residues were removed from fields.

This work, led by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) soil scientist Brian Wienhold, supports the USDA priority of developing new sources of bioenergy. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency.

Wienhold, with the ARS Agroecosystem Management Research Unit in Lincoln, Neb., led studies that compared runoff rates and sediment loss from no-till corn fields where postharvest crop residues were either removed or retained. The scientists also removed cobs from half of the test plots that were protected by the residues.

After the test plots were established, the scientists generated two simulated rainfall events. The first occurred when the fields were dry, and the next occurred 24 hours later when the soils were almost completely saturated.

For more on this article:

Link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130131121022.htm
Source: Science Daily / University of Toronto

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