What is in this article?:
- A 'slimy, smelly mess' at burndown, but giant radishes help Arkansas growers stem erosion
- Some pigweed suppression
• A ‘cocktail mix’ of winter cover comprised of tillage radishes — which can send a root as much as 60 inches into the soil —cereal rye, and rape/canola help Mike Taylor and his son, Mikey, prevent erosion and wind damage on their 6,500-acre Long Lake Plantation near Helena, Ark.
MIKEY TAYLOR and his son, Wells, check progress of the tillage radishes they use for winter cover on Long Lake Plantation near Helena, Ark. Mikey and his father, Mike, have about half their 6,500 acres in radish, cereal rye, and dwarf rape/canola cover crops this winter.
Some pigweed suppression
There is some research, Mikey says, that indicates the radishes produce an allelopathic reaction — a natural suppression — for pigweed and marestail.
“These are our two worst weeds,” he says. “Everyone is concerned about the threat we face with herbicide resistance in these two weeds. You hardly see anyone doing conventional cultivation any more in order to avoid as much seed distribution as possible.
“We were the first in Arkansas to have documented pigweed resistance, and it’s our biggest management challenge once our crops are up and growing. I wake up in the mornings thinking about it. It’s like a plague — an infection we constantly have to battle.
“We have a good Syngenta program of overlaying residuals, and we rotate crops religiously. We’re constantly on the watch for pigweeds, and we have people in the fields chopping them out. But as anyone who deals with this problem knows, you can have a beautiful, clean field Friday, and Monday there’ll be more of them popping up.
“Farmers are going to have to be determinedly proactive about this problem, or it could put some of us out of business.”
In researching the tillage radishes, Mike says, they looked into work that has been done mostly in Pennsylvania and other Eastern/Midwest states. “They’re pretty widely used in those areas.
“A lot of the seed comes from Oregon, where there is a lot of cover crop seed production, and some comes from New Zealand. We get our seed from Richard Petcher, Petcher Seed, at Fruitdale, Ala. He’s a retired county agent who sells a lot of cover crop seed.
“Our logic is that we are probably removing things from the soil that the NPK regiment can’t replace. There is thinking that some cover crops cannot only help manage compaction, prevent erosion, and suppress weeds, but also restore soil biology or microlife, sequester nutrients, help fight disease and break pest cycles, and maybe even reduce pesticide buildup.
“It’s certainly an option to buying more diesel and fertilizer and doing deep tillage,” Mike says.
Cover crops are are also included in the USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program, he notes.
The CSP encourages many conservation benefits, including improvement of water and soil quality, wildlife habit enhancements and adoption of conservation activities that address the effects of climate change. USDA encourages producers to apply for CSP throughout the year to be considered for current and future application ranking periods.
The program, authorized in the 2008 farm bill, offers payments to producers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship. Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, rangeland and non-industrial forestland.
The Taylors haven’t firmed acreage plans for 2013 crops.
“The wheat ground will go to soybeans,” Mikey says, “but we’ll determine the rest of the acreage as we see what the outlook is for prices. The big question is peanuts.
“We had a good peanut crop in 2012 on 900 acres; we were happy with the yields. But 2013 acreage will depend on what kind of contract price is being offered. Everyone expects it will be substantially less than the record prices following the shortage from the 2011 drought in Texas. We’ll continue our same corn/soybeans/peanut rotation.
“Our corn, which is mostly irrigated, averaged about 180 bushels, but our soybeans were down probably 10 bushels on average due to the drought in this area.”