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Agronomy Journal Abstract -

Cornstalk Decomposition on a Till-Planted Watershed1


This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 72 No. 5, p. 709-712
    Received: Feb 1, 1979

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  1. E. E. Alberts and
  2. W. D. Shrader2



Cornstalk (Zea mays L.) residue can be used for many competing purposes including energy production and erosion control. This study was conducted to determine the rate of cornstalk decomposition and N and P release on a till-planted watershed in the Corn Belt. Samples of cornstalk residue were periodically collected from 12 sites distributed over the watershed and analyzed for weight loss and plant nutrient content. After 12 months, 79% of the residue had decomposed. About two-thirds of the decomposition occurred from November to April when soil temperatures were unfavorable for high microbial activity. Nitrogen and P were released from the residue during the early stages of decomposition. After 12 months, 60% of the N and 74% of the P had been lost. The percentages of N and P in the residue rapidly increased during the last 3 months of the study when soil moisture and soil temperature were favorable for optimum activity. The C/N ratio declined from 48 to 23. Narrowing of the ratio was caused by a proportionately greater decrease in C content than in N content.

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