Radishes and turnips are increasingly being planted as cover crops. However, there's some confusion about whether these crops can be planted on cropland, since they are technically vegetables, says DeAnn Presley, K-State Research and Extension soil management specialist. "The 2008 Farm Bill says that farmers have the freedom to plant whatever crops they choose on their base acres except for fruits and vegetables. However, some producers might have acres on their farms that are not fully based, so they could grow radishes and turnips on (up to) that number of acres," Presley says.
"Also, if the crop is grown on the base acres strictly as a cover crop and it is not the first crop of the year, and it is not mechanically harvested or grazed, that is acceptable," she adds. So if producers plant radishes and turnips after they harvest wheat, and plan to destroy those crops with herbicide or let the frost kill them, they would be in compliance, she notes.
If radishes or turnips are planted and are going to be grazed, producers will need to pay a measurement service fee to have someone from the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) office come out and look at the field to make sure that the vegetables are not being harvested as produce. "And this same rule applies if the radishes and turnips are the first crop of the year on your base acres," Presley adds.
Producers are required to certify all cropland, and for some USDA programs all farmland, at the FSA office on an annual basis, Presley reminds.
"The bottom line is that it is possible to plant radishes and turnips on cropland, but producers should discuss this with their local USDA FSA office first. They will work with you to determine your options. The FSA realizes that cover crops have a tremendous value in terms of improving soil quality and protecting natural resources, so they are very willing to work with producers who want to plant radishes and turnips as a cover crop or for grazing," the K-State soil scientist concludes.