For three years beginning in 1999, a 96-acre field near Atlantic, Iowa was used to study the effects of corn residue grazing by beef cows on soil characteristics and soybean yields in subsequent years. Each winter, cows were allowed to graze corn crop residues inside selected paddocks in four sub-fields over five monthly periods. To compare the effects of grazing, one paddock was left as an ungrazed control. At the end of grazing in the spring, soil bulk density, moisture content, and penetration resistance were measured inside and 15 ft outside twelve grazing exclosures in each paddock. Soil surface roughness, texture, and type were also measured in twelve locations in each paddock. Corn crop residues were collected for yield, cover, and composition at the initiation, middle and termination of grazing. Precipitation and soil temperature also were recorded throughout the grazing season. Each following year, soybeans were planted in replicated subfields with disking or no tillage and harvested using a combine equipped with a yield monitor and global positioning system (GPS).
Cattle grazing corn crop residue has shown no effect on soil bulk density, but there has been a measurable effect on penetration resistance in paddocks grazed in October and November (P< 0.05). There is an increase in soil surface roughness during certain periods of cattle grazing where 75% of the variation can be contributed to increase in the amount of time soil temperature is above freezing. Cattle grazing had no effect on soybean plant population. However, 36 and 38% of the variation in soybean yield can be attributed to penetration resistance and soil surface roughness.
Iowa State University
Clark, Justin; Russell, James R.; Karlen, Douglas; Busby, W. Darrell; Peterson, Brian; Pellack, Larry; and Maxwell, Dallas L., "Effects of Corn Crop Residue Grazing on Soil Physical Properties and Subsequent Soybean Production in a Corn–Soybean Crop Rotation" (2003). Beef Research Report, 2003. 10.