What started as an innocent mistake a few years ago on an Ohio farm could provide a substantial yield boost for winter wheat growers.
Dozens of growers throughout the Midwest have combined wheat and radish seed in their planters and drills and no-tilled the mix in onfarm plots to do side-by-side comparisons with wheat-only plots.
Wheat yields have increased by as much as 18 bushels per acre during early farm experiments. More onfarm results are expected in July when 85 farmers in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan harvest winter wheat planted last fall with radishes.
No-tillers want to know if yield increases from this mix are large and widespread enough to implement on a broader scale.
“We want to know when and where this works, why it works and how to manage it,” says Holtwood, Pa., no-tiller Steve Groff, who is supplying his trademarked “Tillage Radish” seed to the growers. “I’m thinking we’re picking up 10 to 15 pounds of nitrogen and giving it to the wheat.”
With current prices, the yield increases could add up to substantial profits for wheat growers — especially if the nutrient-scavenging benefits of radishes allow for a reduction in applied nitrogen on wheat acres.
For example, Groff’s Tillage Radishes cost about $3 a pound last fall, meaning it would only take a 1-bushel gain to pay for the radish seed if it was applied at 2 pounds per acre. The remaining 17-bushel increase, applied over 500 hypothetical acres of soft red winter wheat…