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BioEnergy Research

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 481–490 | Cite as

Crop Residue Mass Needed to Maintain Soil Organic Carbon Levels: Can It Be Determined?

  • Jane M. F. JohnsonEmail author
  • Jeff M. Novak
  • Gary E. Varvel
  • Diane E. Stott
  • Shannon L. Osborne
  • Douglas L. Karlen
  • John A. Lamb
  • John Baker
  • Paul R. Adler
Article

Abstract

Corn’s (Zea mays L.) stover is a potential nonfood, herbaceous bioenergy feedstock. A vital aspect of utilizing stover for bioenergy production is to establish sustainable harvest criteria that avoid exacerbating soil erosion or degrading soil organic carbon (SOC) levels. Our goal is to empirically estimate the minimum residue return rate required to sustain SOC levels at numerous locations and to identify which macroscale factors affect empirical estimates. Minimum residue return rate is conceptually useful, but only if the study is of long enough duration and a relationship between the rate of residue returned and the change in SOC can be measured. About one third of the Corn Stover Regional Partnership team (Team) sites met these criteria with a minimum residue return rate of 3.9 ± 2.18 Mg stover ha−1 yr−1, n = 6. Based on the Team and published corn-based data (n = 35), minimum residue return rate was 6.38 ± 2.19 Mg stover ha−1 yr−1, while including data from other cropping systems (n = 49), the rate averaged 5.74 ± 2.36 Mg residue ha−1 yr−1. In broad general terms, keeping about 6 Mg residue ha−1 yr−1 maybe a useful generic rate as a point of discussion; however, these analyses refute that a generic rate represents a universal target on which to base harvest recommendations at a given site. Empirical data are needed to calibrate, validate, and refine process-based models so that valid sustainable harvest rate guidelines are provided to producers, industry, and action agencies.

Keywords

Bioenergy Second generation feedstock Sustainable Renewable energy 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Funding for this project was provided by the US Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), as part of the USDA-ARS Renewable Energy Assessment Project (REAP). Additional funding was provided by the North Central Regional Sun Grant Center at South Dakota State University through a grant provided by the US Department of Energy—Office of Biomass Programs under award no. DE-FC36-05GO85041

Supplementary material

12155_2013_9402_MOESM1_ESM.docx (26 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 26 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane M. F. Johnson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jeff M. Novak
    • 2
  • Gary E. Varvel
    • 3
  • Diane E. Stott
    • 4
  • Shannon L. Osborne
    • 5
  • Douglas L. Karlen
    • 6
  • John A. Lamb
    • 7
  • John Baker
    • 8
  • Paul R. Adler
    • 9
  1. 1.North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory, USDA Agricultural Research ServiceMorrisUSA
  2. 2.Coastal Plains Soil, Water, and Plant Research Center, USDA Agricultural Research ServiceFlorenceUSA
  3. 3.Agroecosystems Management Research Unit, USDA-Agricultural Research ServiceLincolnUSA
  4. 4.National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory, USDA-Agricultural Research ServiceWest LafayetteUSA
  5. 5.North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory, USDA-Agricultural Research ServiceBrookingsUSA
  6. 6.National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, USDA-Agricultural Research ServiceAmesUSA
  7. 7.Department of Soil, Water and ClimateUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA
  8. 8.Soil and Water Management Research Unit, USDA-Agricultural Research ServiceUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA
  9. 9.Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, USDA-Agricultural Research ServiceUniversity ParkUSA

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