Ag Data Commons
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Thirteen-year Stover Harvest and Tillage Effects on Corn Agroecosystem Sustainability in Iowa

posted on 2024-02-21, 17:49 authored by Douglas Karlen, Claire PhillipsClaire Phillips, Peter O'Brien, John F. Obrycki, Mehari Tekeste, Elnaz Ebrahimi, Cynthia A. Cambardella, John Kovar, Stuart J. Birrell

This dataset includes soil health, crop biomass, and crop yield data for a 13-year corn stover harvest trial in central Iowa.

Following the release in 2005 of the Billion Ton Study assessment of biofuel sources, several soil health assessments associated with harvesting corn stover were initiated across ARS locations to help provide industry guidelines for sustainable stover harvest. This dataset is from a trial conducted by the National Laboratory for Agriculture and Environment from 2007-2021 at the Iowa State University Ag Engineering and Agronomy farm. Management factors evaluated in the trial included the following.

  1. Stover harvest rate at three levels: No, moderate (3.5 ± 1.1 Mg ha-1 yr-1), or high (5.0 ± 1.7 Mg ha-1 yr-1) stover harvest rates.
  2. No-till versus chisel-plow tillage. Originally, the 3 stover harvest rates were evaluated in a complete factorial design with tillage system. However, the no-till, no-harvest system performed poorly in continuous corn and was discontinued in 2012 due to lack of producer interest.
  3. Cropping sequence. In addition to evaluating continuous corn for all stover harvest rates and tillage systems, a corn-alfalfa rotation, and a corn-soybean-wheat rotation with winter cover crops were evaluated in a subset of the tillage and stover harvest rate treatments.
  4. One-time additions of biochar in 2013 at rates of either 9 Mg/ha or 30 Mg/ha were evaluated in a continuous corn cropping system.

The dataset includes: 1) Crop biomass and yields for all crop phases in every year. 2) Soil organic carbon, total carbon, total nitrogen, and pH to 120 cm depth in 2012, 2016, and 2017. Soil cores from 2005 (pre-study) were also sampled to 90 cm depth. 3) Soil chemistry sampled to 15 cm depth every 1-2 years from 2007 to 2017. 4) Soil strength and compaction was assessed to 60 cm depth in April 2021.

These data have been presented in several manuscripts, including Phillips et al. (in review), O'Brien et al. (2020), and Obrycki et al. (2018).

Resources in this dataset:

  • Resource Title: R Script for Phillips et al. 2022.

    File Name: Field 70-71 Analysis Script_AgDataCommons.R

    Resource Description: This R script includes analysis and figures for Phillips et al. "Thirteen-year Stover Harvest and Tillage Effects on Soil Compaction in Iowa". It focuses primarily on the soil compaction and strength data found in "Field 70-71 ConeIndex_BulkDensityDepths_2021". It also includes analysis of corn yields from "Field 70-71 CornYield_2008-2021" and weather conditions from "PRISM_MayTemps" and "Rainfall_AEA".

    Resource Software Recommended: R version 4.1.3 or higher,url:

  • Resource Title: Field 70-71 ConeIndex_BulkDensityDepths_2021.

    File Name: Field 70-71 ConeIndex_BulkDensityDepths_2021.csv

    Resource Description: This dataset provides an assessment of soil strength (penetration resistance) and soil compaction (bulk density) to 60 cm depth, in continuous corn plots. Penetration resistance was measured in most-trafficked and least-trafficked areas of the plots to assess compaction from increased traffic associated with stover harvest. This spreadsheet also has associated data, including soil water, carbon, and organic matter content. Data were collected in April 2021 and are described in Phillips et al. (in review, 2022).

  • Resource Title: Field 70-71 CornYield_2008-2021.

    File Name: Field 70-71 CornYield_2008-2021_ForR.csv

    Resource Description: This dataset provides corn stover biomass and grain yields from 2008-2021. Note that this dataset is just for corn, which were presented in Phillips et al., 2022. Yields for all crop phases, including soybeans, wheat, alfalfa, and winter cover crops, are in the file "Field 70-71 Crop Yield File 2008-2020".

  • Resource Title: PRISM_MayTemps.

    File Name: PRISM_MayTemps.csv

    Resource Description: Average May temperatures during the study period, obtained from interpolation of regional weather stations using the PRISM climate model ( These data were used to evaluate how spring temperatures may have impacted corn establishment.

  • Resource Title: Rainfall_AEA.

    File Name: Rainfall_AEA.csv

    Resource Description: Daily rainfall for the study location, 2008-2021. Data were obtained from the Iowa Environmental Mesonet ( Title: Field 70-71 Plot Status 2007-2021.

    File Name: Field 70-71 Plot Status 2007-2021.xlsx

    Resource Description: This file contains descriptions of experimental treatments and diagrams of plot layouts as they were modified through several phases of the trial. Also includes an image of plot locations relative to NRCS soil survey map units.

  • Resource Title: Field 70-71 Deep Soil Cores 2012-2017.

    File Name: Field 70-71 Deep Soil Cores 2012-2017.xlsx

    Resource Description: Soil carbon, nitrogen, organic matter, and pH to 120 cm depth in 2012, 2016, and 2017.

  • Resource Title: Field 70-71 Baseline Deep Soil Cores 2005.

    File Name: Field 70-71 Baseline Deep Soil Cores 2005.csv

    Resource Description: Baseline soil carbon, nitrogen, and pH data from an earlier trial in 2005, prior to stover trial establishment.

  • Resource Title: Field 70-71 Crop Yield File 2008-2020.

    File Name: Field 70-71 Crop Yield File 2008-2020.xlsx

    Resource Description: Yields for all crops in all cropping sequences, 2008-2020. Some of the crop sequences have not been summarized in publications.

  • Resource Title: Field 70-71 Surface Soil Test Data 2007-2021.

    File Name: Field 70-71 Surface Soil Test Data 2007-2021.xlsx

    Resource Description: Soil chemistry data, 0-15 cm, collect near-annually from 2007 to 2021. Most analyses were performed by Harris Laboratories (now AgSource) in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

  • Resource Title: Iowa Stover Harvest Trial Data Dictionary.

    File Name: Field 70-71 Data Dictionary.xlsx

    Resource Description: Data dictionary for all data files.


USDA: 5030-12000-013-00D


Data contact name

O'Brien, Peter

Data contact email


Ag Data Commons

Intended use

These data can be used to evaluate the impacts of stover harvest, tillage system, biochar application, and crop sequence diversification on soil health, soil carbon stocks, and corn yield components.

Use limitations

Some treatments were altered over time. Data users should consult the file "Field 70-71 Plot Status 2007-2021" for a description of treatments through time.

Temporal Extent Start Date


Temporal Extent End Date



  • irregular


  • Not specified

Geographic Coverage


Geographic location - description

Boone, Iowa

ISO Topic Category

  • environment
  • farming

National Agricultural Library Thesaurus terms

corn; agroecosystems; sustainable agriculture; Iowa; soil quality; biomass; corn stover; biofuels; harvesting; agricultural industry; guidelines; agricultural engineering; agronomy; farms; no-tillage; cropping sequence; cover crops; biochar; soil organic carbon; total nitrogen; pH; soil strength; carbon sinks; yield components; soil compaction; alfalfa; wheat; soybeans; computer software

OMB Bureau Code

  • 005:18 - Agricultural Research Service

OMB Program Code

  • 005:040 - National Research

ARS National Program Number

  • 212

Pending citation

  • No

Public Access Level

  • Public

Preferred dataset citation

Karlen, Douglas; Phillips, Claire; O'Brien, Peter; Obrycki, John F.; Tekeste, Mehari; Ebrahimi, Elnaz; Cambardella, Cynthia A.; Kovar, John; Birrell, Stuart J. (2022). Thirteen-year Stover Harvest and Tillage Effects on Corn Agroecosystem Sustainability in Iowa. Ag Data Commons.