This is the plant material that remains on the soil after harvest, ie. the roots, stalks, leaves, etc.  This is a good food for micro-organisms and will become organic matter, and if left undisturbed and on the surface, it protects soil from erosion. Residue can be measured by throwing a meter stick on the ground and counting the number of centimeter marks that have some form of crop residue beneath it. Farmers should aim to have levels of over 50% residue because this will protect topsoil from the impact of rain. High amounts of residue can become an issue for no-till practices although farmers are finding solutions to this problem.  See this USDA site for photos.

corn growing (strip tilled)

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