Tillage radishes do double duty for Monmouth, Ore., no-tiller Garth Mulkey.
Not only do tillage radishes protect the soil, improve soil tilth and suppress weeds, but Mulkey is growing the cover crop as a cash crop.
Like many farmers in the Willamette Valley in western Oregon, Mulkey grows a wide variety of crops for seed. He and his wife, Susan, market cover-crop seeds through their seed company, GS3 Quality Seed Inc.
“I start planting tillage radishes toward the end of February with my John Deere 1590 no-till drill and a self-propelled air seeder with flotation tires that we built,” Mulkey says. “We want to have the radishes planted by the end of March, but the weather is kind of finicky in Oregon in the winter.
“Whenever we get a good break, we’ll plant radishes.”
Mulkey normally drills about 3 pounds of tillage radish seed per acre. The number of seeds per pound can range from 25,000 to 40,000. Usually, he’s planting 75,000 to 90,000 seeds per acre. The biggest challenge is protecting the stand of tillage radishes and other spring-seeded crops.
“In western Oregon, we have a big problem with slugs,” he says. “We’ll use one or two treatments of slug baits. If we know we have a problem field, we’ll drop some slug bait through the drill. We’ll also use a fertilizer spreader to apply the bait. I’ve seen slugs wipe out fields. I’ve spent $100 per acre to control slugs, on several occasions.
“There are ways to minimize…