Baling Corn Stalks - What do You Gain? What do You Lose?
With this year’s prolonged drought
and the shortage of feed, many
farmers baled and sold their corn
stalks to replace roughage and feed
lost because of the shortage of alfalfa
and grain. The questions are, “What
is gained by harvesting the stalks and
what is lost for next year’s crop?”
The gain was feed for those who
needed it and some income for those
whose crop was shorted this year.
Prices for baled corn stalks vary
greatly and can be anywhere from
$30 to $65 per bale, and higher
in some areas. If a farmer was able
to get three bales per acre, the
potential income generated could
range from $90 to $195 per acre.
That added income may really help
in a year where dryland crop yields
were very low.
What is lost by doing this? This
can be very tricky depending on
the amount of stover removed, the
existing fertility level in the field, and
the crop to be planted next spring. It
becomes an estimate as
to what is lost. If corn is
planted on the ground
next year there could be
a loss of 2 to 3 bushels
per acre due to residue
removal. About 2 to
2.5 tons of residues are
removed per acre when
the stalks are baled. In
terms of fertility, about
$15 worth of nitrogen,
phosphate, sulfur, and
lime per ton are removed.
When stover is harvested,
approximately 16 lbs.
of nitrogen, 5.8 lbs. of
phosphorus, 40 lbs.
of potassium, 5 lbs. of
magnesium, and 3 lbs.
of sulfur are removed
for each ton of stover
harvested per acre.1 The loss of
residue and organic matter can
increase the potential for wind and
water erosion and water evaporation.
Moisture is required to release the
potassium from the
residue; therefore, if
moisture is insufficient
during the winter and
spring, it may not be
released to leach back
into the soil. These are
hard to put a value on
but can definitely have an
effect on next year’s crop.
So it looks like a wash as
to what is gained or lost,
but it is important to take
a soil test this spring to
see what nutrients are
needed for the crop that
will be planted.