Thursday, November 17, 2011

Trash or Treasure?

This is a corn field ready for harvest.

This is a corn field after the combine has harvested the corn grain. 

What is left after harvest is called stover or fodder - it's the corn plants leaves, stalks and roots.  Around our farm we affectionately call this stuff trash.  However, the left overs are far from trash!

On our farm like most farms in northeast Iowa, we use the corn stover to help control soil erosion.  The leaves and stalks on top of the ground help protect the soil from wind, heavy washing rains, and snow melt over the next 5 months.  The roots left in the soil also help protect the soil from moving.  In fact, if you look at the first picture of standing corn you can still see remnants of the corn stalks from 2010 still between the rows of corn. 

By leaving trash on top of the soil we are also putting organic matter back into the soil.  This is just like putting leaves onto a garden or mulching a flower bed.  As the leaves, stalks, and roots decompose nutrients are released back into the soil.  It's a very organic process!

Livestock farmers also take advantage of the corn fodder.   It's common to see beef cows grazing the standing corn stalks in the fall. 

Another use for the stover is livestock bedding.  The leaves and stalks are very absorbent and have great insulating value to keep the animals warm and dry through the winter.  Earlier this fall while our neighbors Dan, Ann, and family of Rolling Prairie Guernsey Family Farms were making corn stalk round bales I snapped some pictures.

Gathering the corn stover into the round baler.

Once the baler has tightly rolled the stover together, the
baler wraps with bale with a netting to help hold it together.
 Each bale weighs 1200 to 1400 pounds.  Our neighbors make several hundred corn stalk bales in the fall to keep their cattle comfortable all winter. 

Even after the round bales are made there is still trash left
to protect the top soil.

When livestock farmers clean out animal barns the used bedding is spread back onto the fields where it will decompose and add nutrients and organic matter back into the soil.  This another great way to add value to a corn crop!

These lovely ladies are enjoying a beautiful October day but
in a few weeks they will be lounging in the thick, warm and dry cornstalk bedding.

Unloading a trailer of round bales. 

Someone doesn't look too happy - he should eaten his Wheaties
if he wanted to climb round bales.
Just a Note - I have the Growing Season Picture Diary updated.  Check it out!

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