Raleigh Leesman, who farms in Hughes County, S.D., seeded strips of radishes as cover crop into winter-wheat stubble last summer to simulate what’s called “natural” strip-till.
South Dakota strip-tiller Raleigh Leesman seeded radish into wheat stubble to mimic the results of mechanical strip-till. (Photo courtesy South Dakota NRCS)
“My plan with this cover crop is to break down the residue in the row where the corn will be planted next spring,” Leesman says. “I’m hoping the area will be a dark strip so the soil warms up quickly in the heavy clay soils where we farm.”
This cover-crop, strip-planting technique enables Leesman to use the remaining wheat stubble to protect the soil between the rows of corn. This particular soil type — Promise — has high levels of clay.
“It looks like the radishes in my field will net the same effect as strip-till, only without the machinery,” Leesman says.
He’s also is using this radish strip-planting technique on Highmore soils, which are more typical in central South Dakota, east of the Missouri River.
Highmore soils are very deep, well-drained and were formed on silty glacial drift on uplands, according to USDA soil-series descriptions. Leesman is also evaluating the use of cover crops for ‘greenways’ to manage his fields.
Radishes created these voids in the field of harvested wheat. (Photo courtesy South Dakota NRCS)