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Corn Stover Nutrient Removal Estimates for Central Iowa, USA

Douglas Karlen, John Kovar, Stuart Birrell
Sustainability 2015 v.7 no.7 pp. 8621-8634
Zea mays, aluminum, bales, bioenergy, boron, calcium, carbon, copper, corn, corn stover, feedstocks, fertilizers, harvesting, iron, magnesium, manganese, nitrogen, nutrients, phosphorus, potassium, soil, zinc, Iowa
One of the most frequent producer-asked questions to those persons striving to secure sustainable corn (Zea mays L.) stover feedstock supplies for Iowa’s new bioenergy conversion or other bio-product facilities is “what quantity of nutrients will be removed if I harvest my stover?” Our objective is to summarize six years of field research from central Iowa, U.S.A. where more than 600, 1.5 m2 samples were collected by hand and divided into four plant fractions: vegetative material from the ear shank upward (top), vegetative material from approximately 10 cm above the soil surface to just below the ear (bottom), cobs, and grain. Another 400 stover samples, representing the vegetative material collected directly from a single-pass combine harvesting system or from stover bales were also collected and analyzed. All samples were dried, ground, and analyzed to determine C, N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S, Al, B, Cu, Fe, Mn, and Zn concentrations. Mean concentration and dry matter estimates for each sample were used to calculate nutrient removal and estimate fertilizer replacement costs which averaged $25.06, $20.04, $16.62, $19.40, and $27.41 Mg−1 for top, bottom, cob, stover, and grain fractions, respectively. We then used the plant fraction estimates to compare various stover harvest scenarios and provide an answer to the producer question posed above.