Wednesday, January 5, 2011


NoTiller's are stinking up the neighborhood, now!

LANCASTER -- In the past month, firefighters from Greenfield and Bloom Township have been called out to the intersection of Carroll Northern and Pleasantville roads five times after receiving calls about a propane leak.

It turns out, there was a rather unlikely culprit, and it had nothing to do with the flammable gas: It was rotten radishes.

"We went out four times in December and Bloom went out once," said Greenfield Township Fire Chief Terry Morris. "You could smell the odor, but we couldn't detect the source."

They checked the one nearby house that has a propane tank, but they didn't find a leak.

"There is a gas line going through the area, and we checked it out to see if it was leaking and it wasn't," said Bloom Township firefighter Andy Nunley.

Luckily for both fire departments, Nunley was familiar with the area and remembered a field near the intersection had been planted with radishes.

"I thought I remembered reading something about how they smell when they rot," Nunley said. "I got on the Internet and found an OSU Extension fact sheet about the radish and articles about it causing other fire departments to be called out."

The oilseed radish is used as a cover crop for fields that farmers are using to improve the soil quality of the fields for the planting of better-selling economic crops, according to the OSU fact sheet.

"One problem with decaying oilseed radish is the smell given off during decomposition," said OSU Extension Wood County agent Alan Sundermeier in the 2008 fact sheet. "It has a sulfur-like odor that may take a few days to dissipate."

When Nunley mentioned what he found to Morris and what he thought it was, Morris then tracked down the farmer who planted the field.

It was David Brandt.

"The radishes are a great soil conservation tool," Brandt said. "We are a no-till farming operation and we plant about 350 acres around the county, alternating rows of radishes and winter peas. It provides a lot of nutrients to the soil and we don't have to fertilize the soil, but it does have the one drawback when it rots -- it smells. But it normally only lasts a couple of weeks."

Generally it only smells in the springtime, but the odor became noticeable with recent warm temperatures.

Brandt said when he got the call from Morris, he knew where the odor came from.

"Once they get used to it, they'll know what is," Brandt said. "This is the first year we've planted in that area."

Morris said he wanted people in the area to know about the crop and the odor emanating from it. Every time the fire departments get a call and have to go out to search for the source, it may prevent firefighters from responding to more serious calls.

Thank you my good friends, Dave Brandt and Steve Groff, the radish experts of Ohio and Pennsylvania, seriously. You have raised a stink for the good of mankind. Radishes increase our notill yield and keep our soil covered.

They are worth a little stink!


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