Farmers and equipment manufacturers are finding new methods to handle crop residue and soil compaction without disturbing the ground. Here are just a few.

28% nitrogen or enzymes. Farmers can apply 28% nitrogen or enzymes in the fall after harvest to accelerate the process of decomposition. These nutrients provide food for the microbes, which can increase in population. However, the soil must be moist and greater than 50 degrees for the process to work. This typically occurs only for early-harvested corn.

Cover crops. Precision planting cover crops is gaining traction in the Midwest. Farmers are planting cover crops such as annual ryegrass, winter peas, or crimson clover in late August or early September. The cover crops have deep roots that break up compacted ground.

Stalk shredders. Shredding stalks is another way to deal with crop residue. However, the fine pieces of stalk left are subject to movement by rain or water, which in some cases may result in piles of residue. 

Crimping, lacerating, or crushing the stalks. Performing these actions at the combine head helps start the decomposition process. Various combinations are available. Marion Calmer, maker of the Calmer narrow-row corn head, makes an aftermarket crimper.