HAYS, Kan. -- A Kansas State University scientist is encouraging farmers to think about the hidden costs of removing crop residue from farm fields.

"Crop residue is in high demand in some areas -- as feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol production, industrial uses, livestock feed and other purposes," said Humberto Blanco, soil management scientist with K-State Research and Extension. "But is it a good idea to remove and sell crop residue?"

Blanco, who is based at K-State's Agricultural Research Center at Hays, said removing residue brings costs as well as a monetary benefit.

"Leaving crop residue on the soil surface is the best and simplest way of reducing water and wind erosion," Blanco said. "Excessive residue removal for expanded uses not only accelerates soil erosion but also increases the loss of sediment, nutrients and pesticides in runoff water."

Sediments and nutrients from agricultural soils in runoff water are the main "non-point source" (NPS) pollutants of downstream water bodies, such as ponds, streams and rivers, he said.

"Crop removal is not recommended if soil and water conservation, NPS pollution control, and soil carbon buildup are high priorities," Blanco said. "Residue left on the soil surface protects against impacting raindrops, helps maintain soil aggregate integrity and improves rain water infiltration."

The researcher has conducted studies to assess these issues.

SOURCE: K-State.