Innovating with low residue winter-killed cover crops
May 30, 2011Public
Photo: Adding cover crops to a cropping system changes everything! Our research aims to understand at least some of the complex interactions so that multiple and specific benefits can be realized from appropriate cover crop systems.
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ENTER A COMMENT OR ASK A QUESTION IN THE SPACE BELOW FOR THE CAPTION OR  THIS OR ANY PHOTO!
Photo: Organic field experiment site in Clarksville, MD planted to forage radish, oats and a mixture. Photo taken Sept. 13th; field planted August 24th. The field survived 12" of rain in two weeks.
Photo: Phacelia is frost-killing cover crop with fine roots and rapidly decomposing residues.
Photo: Phacelia has a fine root system that adds quality organic matter to soils.
Photo: Phacelia (foreground) and sunn hemp (right) in demo strips on farm of Steve Groff in Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania.
Photo: Lupin also contributes to the soil with a finely branched root system.
Photo: Forage radish seedling 1 week after planting. Earthworms seem to love them.
Photo: Forage radish seedlings about 5 days after they were no-till drilled into corn silage stubble.
Photo: Forage radish crop and/or cover crop in market garden bed.
Photo: Radish cover crop on market garden bed (foreground) in early fall.
Photo: THE FOLLOWING SLIDES ILLUSTRATE SOME ASPECTS OF FORAGE RADISH ROOT EFFECTS ON SOIL PROPERTIES.
Photo: Forage radish 1 week after seeding. This is an extrememly fast emergng and growing cover crop in warm late summer soil.
Photo: Forage radish 8 days after seeding showing developing tap root system. Within a month the roots will reach 6ft deep or more.
Photo: By early November the forage radish cover crop is at peak biomass, N uptake and fleshy root development. The size of the fleshy root (Daikon type radish can be harvested for market) depends mainly on soil fertility, seeding rate (crowded plants produce smaller roots). Photo: Remsfeld.
Photo: Radish root decaying in early March (radish crop was planted after corn silage).
Photo: Hole left by decayed forage radish fleshy root. Soil has washed into the hole and it has developed many biopores. Our research has shown the soil in and near the radish hole to be greatly enriched in phosphorus (and likely other nutrients, as well). Concerns that spring planted crop seeds might fall into these hole and not grow properly have been unfounded as planting of even small seeded crops like spinach have worked very well.
Photo: Comparison of structure in April between adjacent plots of silt loam soil with or without a forage radish cover crop.
Photo: Rooting radish tubers and the holes they have left in a silt loam soil. Note the bulge of soil around the hole that had been forced up by the swelling root. This action slightly increases the bulk density of the soil between radish holes. If the holes are included, the overall density of the soil is decreased and the porosity and infiltration capacity are greatly increased by the radish roots.
Photo: A radish cover crop in a different field six weeks after planting. Note the soil mounded up as the expanding fleshy root pushes it aside. This can result in higher bulk density when measured in the surface soil between radish roots.
Photo: Soil core sample showing partially decayed forage radish taproot at 65cm (2.2 ft) depth. Small white object is a Colembola (springtail) that apparently was feeding on the root decay organisms.
Photo: Wheel tracks are obvious in this small field of forage radish. Radish will help alleviate compaction problems, but radish itself still suffers in wet conditions in poorly drained, compacted soils.
Photo: Horse-powered New Beat Farm in Knox, Maine will no-till plant beets and spinach into winter-killed forage radish residues (ridges with radish shown) while paths in between ridges will be mulched with longer-lasting residues from winterkilled oats. photo: Adrienne Lee
Photo: Guy Moore of Larriland Farms sent this pic of one of his applications for using forage radishes.  This shows a double row of radishes in the footpath between strawberry rows in his pick your own strawberry field planted. The radishes were planted with a Monosem no till drill. The radishes repair the compaction inflicted by pickers walking and tractor wheels on wet soils. See next slide for later view.
Photo: Forage radish planted in early fall between rows of "pick your own" strawberries at Larriland farms to alleviate compaction, suppress weeds and capture nitrogen for the next picking season. Photo by Frank Coale.