photo copyright The Walden Effect, rotting oilseed radish
from The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, press release February 14, 2012
Soil Scientist Rafiq Islam holds joint appointments with Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and is a strong advocate of winter cover crops.
“Cover crops improve the soil structure, support microbial efficiency and diversity, facilitate drainage, reduce soil erosion and nutrient leaching, store carbon and suppress weeds and pathogens,” Islam says. “They also break up soil compaction.”
He advises incorporating cover crops such as oilseed radish, cereal rye, cowpea or Austrian winter pea into a continuous no-till field crop rotation. The rotation produces enough nitrogen to complement or replace corn nitrogen fertilizer applications. Rotation also improves soil health by supporting soil microbes and earthworms, which recycle nutrients and encourage soil aeration, porosity and percolation.
Islam considers oilseed radish the top cover crop. “Oilseed radish can penetrate the soil more than 30 inches deep, which uplifts the soil and allows water drainage to be improved,” he said. “Plus we found that it can penetrate with more than 280 pounds per square inch pressure to break up soil compaction and can be used as a natural biofumigant in organic agricultural production systems.
“Oilseed radish grows in any soil, and it suppresses nematodes and disease-causing organisms but to our knowledge, not earthworms.”
Small wonder he calls the oilseed radish a “wonder crop.”
To hear the soil scientist further expound on the advantages of cover crops, you can attend his “Soil Quality” workshop March 6 at the Conservation Tillage and Technology Conference.
The full schedule and registration information is at http://ctc.osu.edu . Participants may register online or by mail. Registration for the full conference is $80 ($60 for one day) if received by February 24.
Information is also available in county offices of OSU Extension.