Tim White, editor of Ohio Farmer, recently wrote about an odd occurrence that Ohio no-tiller David Brandt came across in his work with radishes as a cover crop. White, who attended last week’s National No-Tillage Conference, in Cincinnati, Ohio, noted that there was quite a stir in Bloom and Greenfield townships just outside Columbus, Ohio, in late December.
It seems the local fire department was called out several times due to reports from residents of a possible gas leak. You see, there was quite the odor of sulfur in the air over the course of several days that led residents to believe there may be a propane or natural gas leak in the neighborhood.
They never found the leak, but one of the firefighters recalled that there was a field of radishes planted near the reported leak and knew from what he had read on the Internet that they can emit quite a stink when rotting. It just so happens there was a bit of a warm-up during this time and indeed, the radishes were beginning to rot.
This is not unusual. Robert and Nick Miller of Stone Bank, Wis., whom we featured in the Fall issue of No-Till Farmer’s Conservation Tillage Guide, says the same thing happened in their area, which sits right on the edge of urban sprawl outside Milwaukee, Wis.
So, what’s a farmer to do about this? Perhaps, if you are going to raise radishes as a cover crop in an area of urban sprawl, in particular, you might want to consider taking a pre-emptive strike. Do you think it’s feasible to:
- Provide a map of the local area, noting fields where tillage radish are growing? By informing the fire department of what you are doing, it may help them in their investigation of any reports of gas leaks that called in.
- Draft a letter about what you are doing with radishes as a cover crop and give them to residents of neighboring fields? My thought is to not only warn them about the odor that will occur once those radishes begin rotting, but to explain to them the purpose of growing cover crops. Make them aware of the conservation benefits of that cover crop, how you are looking to reduce the amount of applied fertilizer and how these cover crops protect the soil against winter and early spring erosion.
As you know, an uninformed public often will make a big deal about something that farmers are doing, even if it is a good practice environmentally. And when they get riled up, it can lead to contentious debate and even a movement to abolish a beneficial practice used by farmers — just because they don’t understand what you are doing.
Maybe by being proactive, you’ll earn the respect of your neighbors and they won’t make a big stink about your stink.