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Crop Residues: The Rest of the Story


  • Karlen, D. L.
  • Lal, R.
  • Follett, R.F.
  • Kimble, J.M.
  • Hatfield, J.L.
  • Miranowski, John
  • Cambardella, C.
  • Manale, A.
  • Anex, R.P.
  • Rice, C.W.


A recent scientific publication stated that to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, the most permanent and rapid solution would be to sink crop residues to the ocean floor where they would be buried in deep ocean sediments. However, mitigating rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations by removing crop residues from the land, transporting them to the coast, shipping them out to sea, and burying them in the ocean could be short-sighted, with many unintended consequences. Our objectives are to alert readers to the ecosystem services that crop residues provide, to point out some errors and misinterpretations of soil science literature in the review process, and to offer an alternative approach for addressing multiple environmental problems including carbon sequestration, atmospheric CO2 concentrations, productivity, water quality, bioenergy, wildlife habitat, and community development. We conclude that although ocean sequestration may have a role in mitigating atmospheric CO2 concentrations, we should not destroy the future productivity of our soils by drowning crop residues. We also conclude that it is now more important than ever to recognize crop residues as "agricultural co-products" that must be carefully managed, not only to sustain soil and water resources but also to improve the environment in ways that are both known and unknown.

Suggested Citation

  • Karlen, D. L. & Lal, R. & Follett, R.F. & Kimble, J.M. & Hatfield, J.L. & Miranowski, John & Cambardella, C. & Manale, A. & Anex, R.P. & Rice, C.W., 2013. "Crop Residues: The Rest of the Story," Staff General Research Papers Archive 36122, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:36122

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