West-Central Forage Association

Tillage Radish®

In 2011, WCFA started doing applied research on the Tillage Radish® after being approached by a local producer. Since the plant was coming out of the eastern United States, there were some doubts about viability in this region. Tillage Radish® is recognized as a conservation cover crop with the claim of multiple benefits: seedbed enhancement, weed suppression, increased organic matter and water infiltration and reduced soil compaction, erosion, runoff and nitrate leaching. With these types of characteristics, it felt like a natural fit for our west-central region and deemed worth researching.

Conservation Claims:

Alleviate Soil Compaction

Reduce the need to perform deep tillage by providing root holes that break compaction, capture moisture and air, and provide a trail for the following crops’ roots to go deeper in the soil profile.

Suppress Weeds

Achieve a virtually weed-free seedbed in early spring, saving on herbicides and cultivation.

Enhance Seedbed

Save time and maximize resources through suppressed weeds, minimum residue and punctured root holes. Soil is warmer and drier, allowing for earlier spring planting.

Build Organic Matter

High organic matter production will improve soil quality, health, and boost microbial activity with a typical production of 5,000 lbs/acre in shoots and 2,000 lbs/acre in root dry matter.

Releases (N), (P), (Ca), (S) Other Nutrients Early & Increase Topsoil Fertility

Nutrients from the soil profile are pulled up from the long taproot and stored in the tuber. Nutrients are made available in the topsoil when the next crop can best utilize them.

Reduce Nitrate Leaching

Tillage Radish® has an exceptionally deep root system, rapid growth and wicks up soluble nitrogen (N) left in the soil profile. This benefit prevents nutrients from being lost on the soil surface, in the root zone, or into the groundwater. Nutrients are kept available for crop use and not for downstream feeding of algae blooms.

Control Erosion, Reduce Runoff

Increased rainwater infiltration and reduced soil erosion are achieved through the thick fall foliage, winter residual cover and water pathways produced when the deep root holes of the Tillage Radish® decays.

WCFA Plots

In mid-August 2011, 42 plots (3 replicates of 14 plots) were broadcast seeded with the Tillage Radish®, both alone as well as intercropped with oats, barley, triticale, and peas.  There were non-fertilized plots and plots that had 50 lb/acre of nitrogen applied.

In this first year of plot trials, it was found that these late seeded radishes lived up to their claim as a hardy variety, with the plants continuing to grow, with no frost damage, through several sub-zero cold snaps. However, late seeded plants proved to be rather slow to establish due to lack of moisture in late summer.

In early October at 68 days to harvest (DTH) larger and more established radishes were sampled (tops, tubers, and a mixture of both) and tested for nutrient levels. The results in Table 1, showed that, across the board, the radishes seemed to have taken up nutrients high nutrient levels.

 

Tops

Tubers

Tops & Tubers Mix

Fertilized

No Fert.

Fertilized

No Fert.

Fertilized

No Fert.

Crude Protein (%)

22.69

21.06

14.06

13.88

20.50

16.81

Neutral Detergent Fibre (%)

15.28

16.29

14.01

16.51

14.58

17.40

Total Digestible Nutrients (%)

79.55

78.62

80.03

78.30

80.33

77.99

NE Maintenance (MCal/kg)

1.95

1.86

1.95

1.86

1.95

1.86

Relative Feed Value (Calculation)

484.30

449.00

531.40

441.20

512.50

416.90

Table 1. Nutrient comparisons between fertilized and non-fertilized plots.

In 2012 the plots, seeded with a plot seeder on May 29, showed stunted tuber growth, but highly dense lush top growth. The radish tops were sampled in mid-September at 118 days to harvest (DTH), after seed had established, and analyzed for nutrient values, with noticeably different results between 2011 and 2012 (Table 2).

 

2012 (118 DTH)

2011 (68 DTH)

Crude Protein (%)

6.89

21.06

Neutral Detergent Fibre (%)

49.22

16.29

Total Digestible Nutrients (%)

55.91

78.62

NE Maintenance (MCal/kg)

1.33

1.86

Relative Feed Value (Calculation)

105.67

449.00

Table 2. Nutrient comparisons of early and late harvested plots.

The results and observations of the growth differences between 2011 and 2012 indicated that ideal seeding rates and times needed to be investigated to determine the best timing for optimum establishment in our soils and climate.

In 2013 plots were seeded early, on June 9, and late, on August 20. Early seeded plants were sampled for nutrient levels after 44, 54 and 64 days growth. Late seeded plots showed stunted growth, likely due to dry conditions, and as a result were not sampled.

 

 

2 lbs/acre

4 lbs/acre

6 lbs/acre

8 lbs/acre

44 DTH

54 DTH

64 DTH

44 DTH

54 DTH

64 DTH

44 DTH

54 DTH

64 DTH

44 DTH

54 DTH

64 DTH

CP (%)

15.44

11.10

7.74

17.70

11.12

8.90

17.23

11.52

8.27

17.02

13.79

9.45

NDF (%)

29.89

42.55

47.54

23.03

37.92

46.21

26.04

36.09

50.22

26.34

34.38

47.66

TDN (%)

71.29

64.02

60.58

76.17

66.31

61.16

73.47

67.80

58.96

73.17

68.47

60.84

NEM (MCal/kg)

1.78

1.57

1.47

1.92

1.64

1.49

1.84

1.68

1.42

1.84

1.70

1.48

RFV (Calc)

221.87

139.96

118.54

307.67

162.67

123.12

262.56

174.76

109.21

258.41

185.26

118.75

 

Field-scale

In 2012, two approximately 20 acre pieces of land were seeded with Tillage Radish® near Barrhead. The radish was sown on the 31stof July. The cattle were turned out on to the fields on the 2nd of October (32 DTH). Sixty cow calf pairs were given free grazing access to a tame pasture at the same time so as to offer the cattle the option to balance the nutrient rich diet that the radish presented.

 

 

Tops

Tubers

Tops & Tubers Mix

Triticale (for comparison)

CP (%)

24.01

15.71

23.62

7.56

NDF (%)

15.75

12.67

14.12

54.94

TDN (%)

79.21

80.92

79.96

60.08

NEM (MCal/kg)

2.01

2.06

2.03

1.45

RFV (Calc)

467.83

594.12

526.78

101.70

Table 3. Nutritional results from field scale trial.

 

Results from this field trial (Table 3) indicated that, while we are looking at a cover crop that presents a multitude of options in terms of its application, the various applications have implications on how producers should manage this crop.

If the intent for using the Tillage Radish® is to improve your soil, preliminary results indicate the plant to be a fantastic candidate. A number of approaches can be taken from simply letting the radish naturally degrade, leaving pockets where the tubers have rotted out for moisture penetration, or to work it into the ground in the spring. Any of these options would allow for the nutrients that the radish has taken up in its long tuber to be released and diffused into the soil closer to the surface.

Tillage Radish® also proved to have a very strong ability to suppress weeds. The plant’s significant canopy choked out weeds during the growing season, and continued to deter weed growth after the growing season when the canopy decayed and lay flat on the ground, making it so that the weeds were unable to fully penetrate the dead plant matter. This quality will allow for significant savings in reduced herbicide usage for pre-seed burn down.

Many farmers with livestock have incorporated Tillage Radish® into their grazing program as forage for the cattle and for compaction alleviation. Careful management is needed to not allow the cattle to graze in very wet conditions as that will negate the plant’s compaction benefits. Also, it is recommended that cattle only graze off the top one-third in order for adequate re-growth the plants or the plants can't express their genetic potential of deep rooting, as they will not grow deep enough to break through the hardpan.

These radishes have been proven to bring up many nutrients from deep in the soil profile that can greatly benefit the cattle's diet; however, they should be managed with caution when in a grazing system. Cattle will not be able to utilize the high protein, energy, mineral levels, and low fibre levels found in the radishes, therefore it is preferred that a companion forage crop such as tame pasture, be included to better balance the ration.

Information below is taken from www.tillageradish.com, where the seed is sourced.

Tips for successful Tillage Radish® planting:

  • For best results, in this region, plant in late summer to early fall, at least 4 weeks before the average first killing frost date. (Being cognizant that low moisture levels will affect growth).
  • Tillage Radish® will germinate rapidly and typically start appearing within days. If using a burn-down herbicide to clean up existing weeds, wait no longer than 2 days after planting Tillage Radish®.
  • Tillage Radish® begins to winterkill when temperatures fall to mid-teens for 2 or 3 nights, similar to fall planted spring oats.
  • In most areas, Tillage Radish® will decompose in time for spring planting, preparing the field for planting conditions and enhancing the availability of nutrients already in your soil.
  • If Tillage Radish® does not winterkill, apply a combination of 1 pint 2,4-D type herbicide along with 1 quart glyphosate when first flowers appear.
  • Fertilizer input needs are significantly reduced; available leftover (B) has been held and herbicide is reduced due to Tillage Radish® suppression of winter annuals.

Important:

If Tillage Radish® is planted very early as a cover crop, flowering can develop before they are wintered killed. This can be controlled with mowing or burn-down with the active ingredient Glyphosate or 2,4-D equivalent at flowering.

Planting Depth:

1/4 to 1/2 inch deep but can plant 1" to moisture if necessary.

Nitrogen:

In order to grow to their fullest potential they need 40-60 lbs of nitrogen (N) - accumulated or residual. Most fields have enough nitrogen left over from the previous crop.

Applying manure or chicken litter is preferred before planting but can be done just prior to emergence. Liquid manure can only be spread after plant leaves are 4" in size. The practice may cause some burning of the leaves and will have plant damage along tire tracks.

The Tillage Radish® tuber will take up to 150 lbs/acre of (N) from the manure, so it is a great benefit to store nutrients when there is a need to spread manure after planting.

Seeding Rates for Tillage Radish® Planted Alone:

Precision Planter - 4 lbs/acre

  • 15" rows using 60-cell small milo or small sugar beet plates with 4" in-row spacing
  • Seed is selected for Precision Planting performance

Drill Seeder - 6lbs/acre

  • Using small grass box, use alfalfa setting as a guide to set seeding rate. A large seed box can be used but the setting is very low and somewhat difficult to establish. Planting a few rounds with a known amount of seed to determine correcting seeding rate.

Broadcasting/Aerial Seeding - 8lbs/acre

  • Strive for good soil and moisture contact
  • Corn seeding indicator is when 1" patches of sunlight on soil surface are seen or approximately 4 weeks prior to anticipated harvest time
  • Improve success rate by using drop rubes when seeding with a high clearance cover crop seeder

Planting tips for grazing:

  • Always mix a grass species with Tillage Radish® planted at 4 lbs/acre
  • Provide a high protein diet into early winter
  • Allow the cattle to only graze off the top one-third in order for adequate re-growth

Planting tips for established pastures:

Tillage Radish® seed needs a chance to get started in pastures, it is ideal to have the grass grazed low or cut low with adequate moisture prior to planting. Have the soil (N) content at least between 40-60 lbs. Seeding rate is 4 lbs/acre drilled. Broadcasting will only work if there is adequate seed to soil contact - use 6lbs/acre.

The radish is very digestible and provides many nutrients. Having other species established provides a balanced diet.

  • Tillage Radish® 4 lbs/acre when direct drilling into pastureland
  • Tillage Radish® 6lbs/acre when broadcast seeing into pastureland
  • Follow soil test recommendations
  • Nitrogen available between 40-60lbs
  • Allow 4 weeks before grazing
  • Re-graze approximately on a monthly interval
  • Graze no lower than 4" if you desire multiple grazing
  • For best palatability, graze before it flowers
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