Tillage Radish: An Exciting Pasture Plant

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Our no-till drill saw a lot of pasture activity during summer of 2012 and one of the many exciting things we experimented with seeding was tillage radish. Unlike the little red radishes you find in your salad, the tillage radish is a large tap-rooted variety that has the ability to grow several inches long in a short period of time. As with other tap-rooted plants, it has the ability to pull up nutrients from deeper in the soil and also helps break up soil compaction. The radish, being an annual crop, will rot over the winter months leaving a channel where it grew the previous year. This channel enables water and air to percolate into the lower soil layers.

One farmer who has been experimenting quite a bit with tillage radish is Guy Choiniere of Highgate. Guy broadcasts a mix of radish and ryegrass seed at 10 pounds to the acre. He will typically seed heavy use and other problem areas in June with a seeder mounted on his ATV. Once the radish has established, Guy lets his Holstein cows graze the radish tops. The tops re-grow enabling the cows to graze them again later in the season. If you haven’t already seen the UVM Extension ‘Across the Fence’ program about this project, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYHL5CCkhYM

Addison County farmers have wondered if the radishes would do as well on our heavy clay soils (Guy’s soils are fairly sandy). This season we were able to seed tillage radish with the no-till drill into pastures on farms in Addison, Cornwall, and Orwell. Success was noted in Cornwall, where radishes were seeded onto land that had been grazed and rooted by pigs. Seeding occurred before a light rain and germinated after just 2 days. Plants seeded in mid-August grew tops over a foot tall before frost set in and radishes grew up to 6 inches long. Next spring we hope to do more seeding trials earlier in the season so that the radish can grow to its full potential. Stay tuned!

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