Machinery and Equipment Guide

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Machinery and equipment required for radish cover crop production will vary by production stage and production method preferences. The following discussion describes machinery and equipment options for raising radish as a cover crop, and it approximates costs incurred from operating the necessary machinery and equipment.

Machinery and Equipment Needs

Cover crop production has three primary production stages: establishment, maintenance and termination. The following table illustrates machinery choices for each stage. To plant radish, producers have several options. Drilling and broadcast seeding are the most common. With a drill, producers may achieve a better stand, and it requires a lower seeding rate. Because radish seeds are small, producers should equip conventional and no-till drills with a small grain box. If broadcast seeding, the field would benefit from being lightly disked, rolled or cultipacked to improve seed-soil contact. Some producers may prefer establishing radishes with a planter instead of a drill because planters typically cover a wider area, enable better seed spacing control and allow for lower seeding rates. As another option, producers may aerially seed radishes if they need to plant radishes before they harvest a crop currently being grown. If seeding into an existing crop stand, then producers should wait until the existing crop has entered senescence.

Radish crop maintenance is relatively simple. Its foliage will suppress weeds, which possibly removes herbicide application needs. Additionally, radishes, like other mustard species, produce glucosinolates that break down and naturally manage challenges such as nematodes, diseases and weeds. Because radishes efficiently absorb nitrogen, they typically don’t have significant fertilization needs.

Unlike some other cover crops, radishes often don’t require producers to induce crop eradication. Temperatures cooler than 20°F will usually kill radish. After dying, radish plant material decomposes, and the field is then ready for no-till spring planting. Thus, winterkill can possibly replace the termination efforts needed for other cover crops. If winter conditions don’t terminate radishes, then alternative termination strategies include mowing, grazing, light disking or applying herbicide. The additional termination methods may be especially necessary if radishes go to seed and new plants sprout from those seeds.

Equipment and Machinery Needs for Radish by Production Stage

Establishment Maintenance Termination
Tractor X X X
Drill X
Broadcast seeder X
Tandem disk X X
Fertilizer spreader X
Mower X
Chemical sprayer X
Owned and Operated Equipment or Custom Hire Services

When considering crop production machinery and equipment needs, producers may use owned equipment or hire a custom provider. The decision will depend on an operation’s current machinery and equipment inventory, operator time available and the difference in cost. The following table compares projected costs for the two scenarios. In the first, a grower owns and operates equipment. In the second, a grower hires a custom service provider to carry out equipment-related work. The machinery costs are meant to represent total costs incurred for operating equipment used in radish production.

Estimated Machinery Costs and Custom Rates, Per Acre Per Year

Machinery Cost Custom Rate
Drill $16.40 $16.75
Broadcast seeder $6.90 $12.45
Tandem disk $12.60 $12.74
Fertilizer spreader $4.00 $5.34
Mower $15.10 $16.38
Chemical sprayer $3.70 $5.98

Cavigelli, Michel A., Todd E. Martin and Dale R. Mutch. 2010. Oilseed Radish. Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI 48824.

Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. 2012. Machinery Cost Estimates: Summary. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Urbana, IL 61801.

Gruver, Joel, Ray R. Weil, Charles White and Yvonne Lawley. 2014. Radishes – A New Cover Crop for Organic Farming Systems. eXtension. Lexington, KY 40546.

Jacobs, Alayna. 2012. Plant Guide for Oilseed Radish. USDA-NRCS Booneville Plant Materials Center. Booneville, AR 72927.

Ngouajio, Mathieu and Dale R. Mutch. 2004. Oilseed Radish: A New Cover Crop for Michigan. Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI 48824.

Plain, Ronald L. and Joyce White. 2012. 2012 Custom Rates for Farm Services in Missouri. University of Missouri Extension. Columbia, MO 65211.

Stiles, Scott and Terry Griffin. n.d. Estimating Farm Machinery Costs. University of Arkansas. Little Rock, AR 72204.

Sundermeier, Alan. 2008. Oilseed Radish Cover Crop. Ohio State University Extension. Columbus, OH 43210.