By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
REBOSONIA, Penn. — The Tillage Radish, a cover crop aimed at reducing soil compaction and improving its health, has won the No-Till Product of the Year award at the National No-Tillage Conference in Indianapolis. It is produced by Cover Crop Solutions, in Pennsylvania.
Steve Groff developed the tillage radish in conjunction with the University of Maryland. He then took it to market.
“I’m the founder of Cover Crop Solutions, the company that is selling the tillage radish,” he explained, adding, “Dr. Ray Weil brought the concept of tillage radishes to my farm in a 2001 cover crop study. I saw the benefits of it and I took it on myself to develop seed production.
“You get higher yields of corn and soybeans (12 bushels more with corn and 8 with soybeans, per acre, average) after you plant the Tillage Radish. If you plant it in the fall as a cover crop, it soaks up leftover nitrogen in the soil and then the taproot aggressively goes down into the subsoil. It winter-kills over the winter.”
The radish root helps keep nutrients in place, and opens the soil profile, reducing compaction. The nitrogen and other nutrients are released in the spring when the farmer plants corn or soybeans.
“There are a lot of other attributes to it, but higher corn and soybean yields – this is the driving factor in its popularity,” Groff said.
He did 12 years of intensive research on his farm to produce those higher yields, he said. After testing dozens of radishes, he settled on the one now in use because it gave the highest yield after being used as a cover crop.
“Also, we have continuing research and we are partnering with researchers all around the nation in seeing how it can be applied in different geographical areas,” Groff said.
He also likes to use the Tillage Radish in cover crop mixes with annual rye grass, crimson clover and triticale. “There is something magical that happens when you mix cover crops together,” he said. “So, not only is the Tillage Radish good, it can be used in mixes. It adds organic matter to the soil.”
Groff is a full-time farmer and does much on-farm research; about 82-acres on his farm are devoted to research. The farm is completely no-till and he uses reduced amounts of pesticides whenever he can.
“My philosophy is, I want to keep the soil in place, I want to enhance the soil quality for the next generation,” he said. “I want to be more than sustainable. I want to do more than maintain, I want to enhance the soil. Cover crops and no-tillage are the key to getting that done.”
Groff currently spends about half his time working with his business. “I formed a partnership to run the business because I don’t want to sit in an office all day, I want to still keep my hands dirty,” he noted.
At the National No-Tillage Conference the Tillage Radish was a category winner in Cover Crop Seeds. Then, it was the top vote-getter in 13 categories, earning the Product of the Year award against companies such as Dow, Bayer Crop Science and John Deere.
For more information, visit www.covercropsolutions.com or call 800-767-9442.