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Cornell University

Cover Crop Guide for NY Growers

Dr. Thomas Björkman, Horticulture Section, Cornell AgriTech

Forage Radish

Forage radish is a fall-seeded Brassica that is not winter hardy. This crop forms thick, white tap roots that can reach lengths of 8-14 inches, most of which are underground. Radishes are excellent at breaking up shallow layers of compacted soils, earning them the nicknames “biodrills” or “tillage radishes.” A thinner extension of the tap root can penetrate deeper layers of compaction. The roots die over the winter and leave channels so that the soil dries and warms up faster in the spring. Forage radishes also suppress fall weeds.

Land Preparation

Smooth seedbed, well-drained but with adequate moisture.

Seeding Rate

Drill 10 lb/ac (drilled in good conditions) to 13 lb/ac (broadcast or drilled in challenging conditions). Higher rates give weaker growth. Drilling gives a much better stand, so broadcasting should be reserved for when the soil is too wet to drill. After seeding, roll the ground to improve seed-to-soil contact but do not break up soil aggregates. Plant at a depth 1/4-1/2 inches. Can be planted with 40 lb/ac wheat for spring cover and weed suppression.

Seed Cost

2007 price: $2.00/lb

Seeding Dates

4-10 weeks before frost. Late August is ideal. Early September in warm sites. See online tool to see date for your specific location (Chose “Mustard”).

Time Until Control

None, this cover crop winter kills.

Seed Suppliers

Lancaster Agricultural Supply (Cedar Meadow Forage Radish), Steve Groff Seeds, Bird Hybrids, Agriculver, Preferred Seed (Groundhog).

Management Tricks

Roll the ground after seeding to ensure good seed to soil contact but not to break up aggregates.

Unavoidable Problems

Less ground cover than mustard, rape or turnip.

Avoidable Problems

Avoid rotations with brassica vegetable crops.

Classic Uses

Remediate deeper compacted soils.


Little maintenance required.


None; they winter-kill in most New York winters. After mild winters, survivors should be killed with herbicide or mowing before seeds harden.


Forage radishes give less ground cover in the fall than mustard, rape, or turnip, but have comparable biomass. Do not use in rotations with Brassica vegetable crops. Radishes are magnets for flea beetles, but less so in the fall. Download Forage Radish guide from Ray Weil, Univ. of Maryland

All uses for Forage Radish
Management Goal Planting Time
Break Up Deep Compaction Late Summer
Reduce Weeds Late Summer
Reduce Weeds Summer