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Modeled Impacts of Cover Crops and Vegetative Barriers on Corn Stover Availability and Soil Quality
BioEnergy Research (2014)
  • Ian J. Bonner, Idaho National Laboratory
  • David J. Muth, Jr., Praxik, LLC
  • Joshua B. Koch, Praxik, LLC
  • Douglas L. Karlen, United States Department of Agriculture
Environmentally benign, economically viable, and socially acceptable agronomic strategies are needed to launch a sustainable lignocellulosic biofuel industry. Our objective was to demonstrate a landscape planning process that can ensure adequate supplies of corn (Zea mays L.) stover feedstock while protecting and improving soil quality. The Landscape Environmental Assessment Framework (LEAF) was used to develop land use strategies that were then scaled up for five U.S. Corn Belt states (Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Minnesota) to illustrate the impact that could be achieved. Our results show an annual sustainable stover supply of 194 million Mg without exceeding soil erosion T values or depleting soil organic carbon [i.e., soil conditioning index (SCI) > 0] when no-till, winter cover crop, and vegetative barriers were incorporated into the landscape. A second, more rigorous conservation target was set to enhance soil quality while sustainably harvesting stover. By requiring erosion to be <1/2 T and the SCI-organic matter (OM) subfactor to be > 0, the annual sustainable quantity of harvestable stover dropped to148 million Mg. Examining removal rates by state and soil resource showed that soil capability class and slope generally determined the effectiveness of the three conservation practices and the resulting sustainable harvest rate. This emphasizes that sustainable biomass harvest must be based on subfield management decisions to ensure soil resources are conserved or enhanced, while providing sufficient biomass feedstock to support the economic growth of bioenergy enterprises.
  • Landscape planning,
  • Landscape Environmental Assessment Framework (LEAF),
  • Soil conservation,
  • Soil quality,
  • Bioenergy,
  • Sustainable agriculture
Publication Date
June 1, 2014
Publisher Statement
Copyright The Author(s) 2014. This article is published with open access at
Citation Information
Ian J. Bonner, David J. Muth, Joshua B. Koch and Douglas L. Karlen. "Modeled Impacts of Cover Crops and Vegetative Barriers on Corn Stover Availability and Soil Quality" BioEnergy Research Vol. 7 Iss. 2 (2014) p. 576 - 589
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