Friday, February 27, 2009

Good Day in Ada

I had a very good but tiring day in Ada, Ohio yesterday, home of Ohio Northern University. I spoke on cover crops at the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference. There was a big crowd, about the same size as the National NoTillage Conference in Indianapolis last month. Unofficial total was 895 poeple, a little larger than Indy.

I spoke on which cover crop to choose. My message was simple, planting something. You will soon learn what works best for you. Some like wheat, some like rye, some prefer ryegrass but there is huge interest in radishes. Many are using mixtures.

The cover crop interest was so large they held all of the presentations in the Chapel on Wednesday and Thursday. The main building housed the registrations, exhibits and main topics revolving around reducing tillage and other agriculture topics of interest. One was Jim Moseley from Indiana, once Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Dr. Elwynn Taylor, climatologist from Iowa State, always speakers of interest.

I told them I drove 140 miles from Martinsville to Ada and never saw one cover crop field. That reiterated my point that everyone in the room knows the value of cover crops but few have done anything about it. So my message was just plant some and learn how to manage them and learn which ones work best for you. No one can tell you what to plant but we all have ideas.

The benefits of radishes and the yield increases experienced notilling another crop into their decaying remains makes tham a popular choice. There are so many different kinds of radishes. Even those who plant them are a bit confused.

"What’s in a name?

Radishes have become quite popular the past few years primarily because of consistent yield increases on crops that are planted the following year.

However there is confusion in the some farming circles- particularly in the Midwest about what kind of radish we are talking about. Tillage Radish, oilseed radish, and daikon radish are the most frequent names associated with Raphanus sativus, the scientific name for this species.

All these listed below are Raphanus sativus radishes with many different names associated with different uses. They are different when compared one with another. It’d be like using the generic term, “corn” to describe the many varieties of corn -sweet corn included.

Names for Raphanus sativus:

Forage radish- the name Dr. Ray Weil, University of Maryland, assigned to the Raphanus sativus selection he used in his research relating to cover crops. Forage Radish is also used by those who use it for grazing. Dr, Weil will continue to use this term in order to be consistent with his research the past 8 years. But he is indeed using “tillage radish” seeds in current studies. Tillage radishes are mentioned on an upcoming fact sheet from the University of Maryland.

Oilseed radish –As the name indicates these are Raphanus sativus selected for oilseed production, not root production. Seeding rate is sometimes double because of increased seed size. Roots are less aggressive and the plants are generally harder to winterkill.

Daikon radish- a selection of Raphanus sativus used for human consumption.

Oilseed/daikon radish- confusing if this is really for oil seed or human consumption or something else.

Fodder radish-unspecified selection used as a cover crop

Field radish- unspecified selection used as a cover crop

Sprouting radish-Japanese use as sprouts in salads

Japanese radish-used for human consumption

Asian radish- used for human consumption

Chinese radish- used for human consumption

Tillage Radish- A trademarked name that describes the best selection of Raphanus sativus currently available for use as a soil conditioner and cover crop. Tillage Radishes are backed with 8 years of research at Cedar Meadow Farm in conjunction with the University of Maryland."

I am using the Tillage Radish developed on the east coast. It seems to be the best suited for my growing environment and meets my goals of a cover crop to maximize growth and release nutrients.

Since I was gone all day LuAnn had her first "take Sable to work" day. Sounds like she got along pretty well. Sable is growing by leaps and bounds. I am sure she is bigger than she was Wednesday but she still acts like a pup. Maybe it is the big new collar around her neck. LuAnn couldn't find any collars at Tractor Supply that didn't look like a pit bull collar with chrome all over it. Sable has went from a 14 inch collar to a 22 inch collar in one month!

Today is another big day with potential revelation for our farm. I will write about what we learn today later.

Yesterday was tiring enough and we both look and feel quite exhausted.

Ed Winkle


  1. Is the government cost share on covercrop still in effect? That was once of the things that helped me get started in the no-till planting business.
    Row crop farmers were elgible for cost share on their covercrop but since the standard practice was to disk once,then spread oats on with a fertilizer spreader, no one had the documentation to prove what they did. I could no-till faster than they could plant and I could give them a receipt with lbs per acre of seed, so everyone got their money. Plus, I left their fields smooth.
    I really liked planting with no fertilizer at 8 mph. Would usually fill the drill with field run oats, a few plug-ups were not a problem. Quarter mile long fields were nice as well.
    It is kind of funny that now that my customers are done with the program they have gone back to the disk and spread system. I really doubt it costs that much less than me doing it.

  2. So many best management practices are becoming mainplace that I am not sure. Now it seems they just expect you to do it.

    We are supposed to be getting a big watershed grant this year but with the turmoil in DC I don't know if it will come about or not.

    Right now I just hope they can come up with all the insurance payments for 08 and 09. I know most farmers take this for granted but right now I am not.