SoilOptix® Blog

Soil Survey And Mapping in the USA – Factors Contributing to Crop Residue 

Ensuring healthy soil enables producers to work with the land and not against it. This reduces erosion, increases water infiltration, saves money on inputs, improves nutrient cycling, and ultimately improves the resiliency of the working land. Soil survey and mapping in the USA are crucial to implementing the best soil management practices.

There are multiple reasons to leave residue behind on the fields, from building soil health to protecting the fertilizer investment. Too much residue can also cause problems. Farm equipment can jam seeds, the placement can be affected, and the soil might warm slowly, impacting the emergence.

The uneven emergence of the crop can cost you the yield at the end of the season. It is crucial to keep the residue on the field and CONTROL it so that it doesn’t cause problems. The crop residue decomposition on the farm is influenced by different factors related to environment and management. These factors can affect the rate and efficiency of decomposition. This can impact the soil, nutrient cycling, and overall agricultural sustainability.

A Checklist of Factors Decomposing the Crop Residue:

1. Crop residue composition –

The chemical composition within the crop residue has a crucial role. The residues high in lignin and other complex organic compounds decompose slowly; on the other hand, the ones rich in easily degradable materials decompose quickly.

2. Microbial activity –

Microorganisms that include fungi, bacteria, and other decomposers are responsible for the breakdown of organic matter. However, fungi are the best degraders. Soil microbial populations and activity levels also affect the rate of decomposition. Different factors like temperature, moisture, and nutrient availability also affect the microbial activity. For the residues high in lignin and cellulose, including corn stover and wheat straw, it is crucial to have the right fungi for degradation.

soil survey and mapping in the USA

3. Moisture –

It is imperative to have enough moisture for the microbial activities and enzymatic processes that enable decomposition. A huge amount of moisture leads to waterlogging and anaerobic conditions, while too little moisture slows decomposition.

4. Temperature—

The decomposition rates increase with rising temperatures in specific ranges. With warmer climates, the decomposition is faster. However, extreme temperatures (whether too high or too low) can inhibit microbial activity.

5. Nutrient availability –

Microorganisms need nutrients to complete the decomposition. The Carbon-to-Nitrogen (C: N) ratio of the crop residues is crucial. Low C:N accelerates decomposition because the microbes break down the residue to obtain nitrogen.

6. Tillage and Incorporation—

Certain practices, like tillage and residue incorporation, break down and mix crop residue with the soil. This increases contact with the decomposers and enhances the decomposition rates. However, tilling makes the ground much more prone to erosion and compaction and reduces the fungal population.

7. pH and Soil Chemistry—

Soil pH affects microbial activity and decomposition rates. Certain pH levels can enhance decomposition based on the microbes involved. Soil surveys and mapping in the USA can help determine the pH and soil chemistry.

8. Oxygen availability—

Aerobic decomposition, which occurs in the presence of oxygen, is a much more efficient process that creates fewer byproducts compared to anaerobic decomposition. Well-drained soils offer better oxygen diffusion, which supports aerobic decomposition.

9. Crop Residue Management—

If a lot of crop residue is left on the soil surface, it creates a protective layer that moderates temperature and moisture, which influences decomposition. Chopping or crushing the residue also creates many entry points that enhance decomposition.

10. The Presence of Inhibitors –

Certain chemicals or compounds within the crop residues, like allelochemicals or pesticides, can prevent microbial activity and decomposition.

In Conclusion:

Crop residue is crucial to improving soil structure, enhancing organic matter content within the soil, and reducing evaporation. Also, it fixes CO2 within the soil. Good residue management practices on agricultural land positively impacts soil quality. Also, crop residues can be used in biofuel production. With proper soil survey and mapping in the USA, it is possible to ensure the right soil management and crop residue management practices are applied to ensure the highest yield. To understand the detailed information on the soil conditions, get your soil tested. Visit for accurate soil testing and information.