Exploring the potential of chaff lining in Virginia wheat and soybean production.

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Harvest weed seed control (HWSC) methods concentrate, remove, or destroy weed seeds captured by the combine during harvest. Furthermore, chaff lining uses a chute fitted on the back of a combine to concentrate chaff and weed seed therein into a narrow line. Since chaff amount increases with crop yield, studies aimed to determine how varying crop yield and the associated chaff amount will affect chaff lining control of select weed species, while also examining subsequent crop performance. Objective 1 of this work focused on wheat chaff lining (WCL), and objective 2 studied soybean chaff lining (SCL). Weed species of interest included wild mustard (Sinapis arvensis L.) and Italian ryegrass (Lolium perenne ssp. multiflorum L. Husnot) in WCL and Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri S.) and common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.) subject to SCL. Each weed species was evaluated in separate experiments, and the SCL experiment included an additional factor of with and without a cereal rye cover crop treatment. Chaff lines mimicked harvest across a range of wheat and soybean yields, with equal weed seed additions (based on existing fecundity and seed shatter phenology data) to each chaff line. A conventional harvest (control) and an outside-the-chaff-line treatment were included, where total fecundity or weed seed rain occurring prior to harvest based on weed species were broadcast respectively. Inhibition of crop and weed emergence as a function of yield and the associated chaff amount was also investigated in the greenhouse. Crop yield across treatments at the field scale (accounts for both chaff lines and outside-the-chaff-line), was not affected in double-crop soybean following WCL and full-season soybean following SCL. Field scale wheat yield in WCL compared to conventional harvest was not different, increased, or decreased in 8, 3, and 1 site-years, respectively. WCL reduced total weed emergence over the combined double-crop soybean and winter wheat growing seasons by 43-54% at the field scale. SCL reduced common ragweed emergence in cereal rye by 64% and 85% in 2 of 3 locations across the soybean growing season. The cover crop did not reduce common ragweed emergence while it was growing, but residual mulch in soybean reduced emergence by 39%. No differences were observed in Palmer amaranth emergence during cereal rye growth, however cereal rye decreased total emergence by 41%. In 6 of 7 Palmer amaranth location-years, SCL decreased field scale weed emergence in soybean by 81%. These results indicate chaff may create an unfavorable environment for weed seed emergence. In both WCL and SCL, greater amounts of chaff caused larger reductions in weed emergence. Objective 3 focused on quantifying the above-ground biomass breakdown of soybean plants into chaff, straw, and seed fractions as they are processed and dispensed by various harvesters. Depending on HWSC system, chaff and straw residues may also be destroyed, removed, or concentrated. Therefore, chaff and straw nutrient composition was analyzed to evaluate the nutrient and economic consequences of HWSC. Our results show average soybean harvest index is 0.57:1. Furthermore, chaff and straw residues equal 13.4% and 68.5% of the seed weight, respectively. Using 5-year average fertilizer prices (2017 – 2021), replacement of N, P, K and S in chaff, straw, and the combination of both residues costs USD 1.58, USD 5.88, and USD 7.46, respectively.



harvest weed seed control, integrated weed management, Palmer amaranth, common ragweed, Italian ryegrass, wild mustard, harvest index