Crop Residues

To evaluate the potential of crop residues to provide feedstocks to the bioproduct markets, POLYSYS includes corn stover and wheat straw response curves that estimate stover and straw quantities (dt/ac) as a function of corn and wheat grain yields, and stover and straw production costs as a function of yields of removable residue (dt/ac). The removal of corn stover and wheat straw raises environmental quality issues such as erosion, carbon levels, tilth, moisture, and long-run productivity. The analysis accounts for quantities of stover and straw that must remain on the field to keep erosion at less than or equal to the tolerable soil loss level. The methodology for estimating quantities that must remain takes into account soil types, slope, crop rotations, type and timing of tillage plus other management practices, including climate zones among other factors (Nelson, 2002). The estimated response curves incorporated into POLYSYS were obtained through the DOE Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) (Walsh et al, 2003).

The quantities of corn stover and wheat straw that can be removed are the amounts of stover or straw produced minus the highest of the estimated residue quantities needed to control for rain and wind erosion, along with soil carbon. Corn and wheat grain yields (bushel/acre) are converted to biomass quantities (dt/ac) using standard grain weights (lb/bu), moisture content, and residue to grain ratios (Heid, 1984; Larson, et al, 1979). Corn and wheat yield quantities are those used in POLYSYS. Total quantities of corn stover and wheat straw that can be collected in each county are estimated for each tillage and dominant crop rotation scenario and weighted by the number of acres using each tillage practice (Conservation Tillage Information Center, 2004).

The costs of collecting corn stover and wheat straw include baling and staging (loading on bale wagon and moving to field edge). Cost of nutrient replacement is included in the estimated collection costs. Costs are estimated as a function of the residue that can be removed (dt/ac).

The choice of whether residues are harvested from a particular county is determined by figuring the difference between the cost of collecting residues to the edge-of-field and the market revenue generated. If positive, the residues are harvested from all county corn or wheat acres. Expected prices are current year residue prices. Current year prices are used because the choice to harvest residues can be made on already planted acres.

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