feet or more during the fall. The thick,fleshy upper part of the taproot grows12 to 20 inches long (including 2 to 6inches protruding above ground) creatingvertical holes and zones of weakness thattend to break up surface soil compactionand improve soil tilth. After the covercrop dies in the winter and the rootsdecompose, the open root channels can
Multiple Benefits from OneCover Crop
Because of its unique plantcharacteristics, a forage radish cover cropcan provide measurable benefits to thefarmer, the soil, and the environmentwhile avoiding many of the problemstraditionally associated with cover crops.As a result, farmers are finding that aforage radish cover crop pays for itself with tangible benefits.
Alleviation of Soil Compaction
Forage radish cover crops are used bymany farmers as a biological tool toreduce the effects of soil compaction,leading some farmers to refer to thiscover crop as “tillage radish” or “radishripper.” The roots of cool season covercrops can penetrate compacted soilsin fall to some extent because theyare growing when soils are likely to berelatively moist and easily penetrated.Forage radish roots can penetrate plowpans or other layers of compacted soilbetter than the other cover crops (suchas cereal rye and rapeseed) tested inour research. The thin lower part of the taproot can grow to a depth of six
Bulk density, g/cm
Corn roots / sq. yd.Soybean roots / sq. yd.
Soybean, 2006Corn, 2005
S o i l d e p t h , i n c h e s
Forage radishNo cover Rye
Summer crop roots in soil profile as affected by previous cover crop. Bulk density of the soil (left, measured beforecover crop treatments) shows the typical higher density found in subsoils. Chen and Weil (2006).
Forage radish has been shown to:• Alleviate soil compaction—save ondeep tillage• Suppress weeds—save on herbi-cides/cultivation• Enhance seedbed—save time andplant earlier in spring• Build organic matter—improve soilquality• Release N early and increase topsoilfertility—save on N and other fer-tilizers• Reduce nitrate leaching—save theBay• Control erosion—save your soil• Reduce runoff—conserve rainwater