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Agronomist outlines steps to remove debris after floods

This year's soggy spring and early summer left some farm fields in the Plains and Midwest flooded, leaving land owners to wonder how to handle the aftermath.

"When flood water recedes, a landowner may find that some new 'organic matter' has been left on the field, in the form of woody debris. That may cause some problem in future field operations," said Kansas State University agronomist DeAnn Presley. "This woody debris can easily be up to two to three inches in diameter or more. In many cases, it will be too scattered to burn. The main risks of woody debris include damage to harvest equipment and during planting."

Larger diameter branches (greater than three inches) will not readily decompose and might wedge into the planter units, and short logs could pose a hazard to combines, said Presley, who is a soil science and soil and water management specialist with K-State Research and Extension.

Presley cited several possible solutions.

--Residue managers or row cleaners on the planter might be able to move the smaller debris out of the way. Take the planter to the field as early as possible to test whether or not it can open and close the furrow without plugging repeatedly. Strip-tillage equipment may also be able to move woody debris out of the row.

--Flood-deposited debris is often oriented in one direction, so it might be possible to plant the rows in a direction parallel to the flood debris.

--If it is not practical to pick up the residue manually, a harrow or drag could be used to collect or windrow the debris into piles for collecting later, or perhaps burning in place.

--If none of this is workable or attractive, some type of cutting tillage (e.g., disk) may be the only alternative.

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