When crop residues interfere with planting operations, management practices must remove or reduce them. These practices include baling and removing straw, grazing, plowing, or burning, alone or in combina- tion. Choppers or spreaders should be attached to the combine unless the straw is to be baled. Removing, deep plowing, or burning residue may help reduce the buildup of disease-causing organisms that survive on crop residue, such as those that cause Septoria tritici leaf blotch (wheat) and net blotch and scald (barley). Incorporating crop residue improves soil structure and in many instances is a major benefit of a small grain crop.
Small grain crops are often followed by corn or summer vegetable crops such as beans or tomatoes in some parts of the Central Valley and similar areas. In these situations, open-field burning of small grain resi- due, where permitted, may expedite preparation of the field for the fol- lowing crop. Agricultural burning is controlled by state and local agen- cies, which impose restrictions on the time of burning, acreage burned, and burning procedures. Before burning, permits must be obtained from county air pollution control districts, the agricultural commissioner, or other designated agencies.
Conservation tillage, defined as a tillage program that keeps at least 30 percent
of the soil surface covered by crop residue at all times, is appropriate for many rain- fed small grain production areas. Maintaining a surface cover of crop residue to reduceSmall Grain Production Manual
soil erosion is an important part of conservation tillage operations. Straw chopper and spreader attachments should be used on the combine to spread crop residue uniformly. This helps control erosion and improves distribution of the straw. Areas of straw accu- mulation may tie up nitrogen fertilizer during the following crop season. In no-till oper- ations, uniform distribution of crop residue is critical to providing favorable planting conditions for the next crop.