Scottish growers will soon be able to include oilradish in their EFAs after changes to greening requirements have placed thecrop on the list of approved crops from 2016. As a versatile crop with numerousbenefits, authorisation from the Scottish government to include oil radish isfantastic news for growers.
Oil radish is a quick growing brassica crop andexcellent at catching residual nitrogen; Kings and Frontier research hasconsistently shown N capture of up to 150kg/ha. This allows valuable nitrogento be recycled into the following crop as well as reducing leaching. Thisnitrogen is caught by a robust taproot and lateral fibrous roots which canreach down to over 18 inches, busting through moderate levels of compaction asthey grow. It has a high level of clubroot resistance too, so wont affectbrassicas in a rotation.
Grower Stephen Melville hosts Kings cover croptrials in Fife and highly recommends oil radish. It has great ability to soakup nitrogen from within the soil and make it available for future crops. Thishelps to reduce manufactured fertiliser requirements, so its beneficial forthe environment and my pocket. Oil radish is also a good feed source forlivestock, helping to provide valuable winter forage. Crucially, its a veryquick germinating crop, unlike some of the other EFA options, which isespecially useful given the slightly later establishment dates and the risk ofdeteriorating climatic and soil conditions that we can face in Scotland.
Soil structure can also be greatly improved withoil radish. Trials have shown that it has the potential to produce hugequantities of biomass, with up to 30t/ha of fresh matter. Around 10% of this isdry matter which contributes to soil organic matter levels, revitalising thesoil, improving soil structure and increasing valuable humus content.
New to the world of cover crops this year, DavidJenkinson has grown oil radish for the first time in a bid to improve soilstructure at his farm in East Lothian. Ive been very impressed with the crop,especially considering it was late going in as it established very quickly. Imbecome an avid believer in cover crops and think that theres a huge place forcultivation with plants rather than steel. I chose oil radish for its benefitsto soil structure and I havent been disappointed.
Trials have been key to oil radish being added tothe approved EFA crop lists in England, as announced in September, and now inScotland. Recognising the crops significant benefits for arable rotations,Kings actively campaigned for the inclusion of oil radish for over a year. Thisincluded trialling the crop at several of its demonstration sites, includingColdstream, Haddington and St Andrews in 2014 and an extended network coveringsites from Coldstream to the Black Isle in 2015. Kings is also working with theJames Hutton Institute in Scotland to gain a greater understanding of howvarious crops interact with a range of soil properties.
Manager Richard Barnes is delighted at the recentannouncement, Kings has long extolled the virtues of oil radish. Its such aversatile crop that we have been encouraging and supporting growers to sow iteven outside of EFA rules, so its fantastic news that it can now count as oneof the crops under greening requirements.
Greening rules in Scotland state that growersincorporating Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) into their Scottish RuralDevelopment Programme must:
establish the EFA green cover between 1 March and 1 October inclusive
maintain the EFA green cover up to the 31 December inclusive
incorporate the EFA green cover as a soil conditioner beforeestablishment of the following years harvestable crop
establish a green cover consisting of two or more of only the followingcrops: alfalfa, barley, clover, mustard, oats, phacelia, oil radish, rye,triticale, vetch.
A vetch and radish mix is generally recommended forearly sowing in August, Richard explains, or a rye, oats and radish mix ifsowing in September. For advice on the best approach according to individualcircumstances, talk to the experts.