Another Facebook friend, who is a local volunteer fireman chimed in, and said that Ameren and local police had been called and were "running around like chickens with their heads cut off" looking for a gas leak. They were finally notified that the smell was not natural gas, but "radishes." Even though some of my friends are still "not convinced there isn't a dead body in the field," we finally came to the conclusion that the smell was due to a cover crop or tillage radishes.
Other reports of smelly cover crops came in from Burrus dealers, Brian and Kyra Willenborg near Vandalia, Illinois as well as Kyle Kiefer, who said that 40 acres of tillage radishes caused the entire town of Ina, Illinois to "smell like sauerkraut."
Why would a farmer plant such a stinky crop? Cover Crops have grown in popularity over the last several years. They provide many benefits such as adding nutrients to the soil, preventing removal of nutrients, such as nitrates, which can lead to detrimental effects in the Gulf of Mexico, improve soil tilth, prevent soil erosion (much needed this year), and assist with weed control or reduce the use of herbicides.
So, let's cut to the chase. Why the smell? Kris Reynolds, Resource Conservationist at the Montgomery County Soil and Water District stated, "The weather this fall provided an abnormally, good growing season for cover crops, especially the radishes. The radishes were planted early and grew very well. The bigger the radish the worse the smell!" As freezing and thawing occurs, the radish is breaking down in the soil and this is accompanied by an odor. Matt Boucher said that the smell will be worse if tillage radishes are "very thickly planted in the field, without the presence of another cover crop species with it." David Rahe suggested that next time they might consider planting another cereal cover crop species, like oats to "thin out" the tillage radishes. Unfortunately, the smell could persist anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
The moral of the story, is that by planting cover crops, farmers are not trying to "gas everyone out" so to speak, but be good stewards of the land for our future!
|Picture of a "gigantic and stinky" tillage radish planted July 20th that was grown on the farm of Burrus Dealers, Kyra and Brian Willenborg, near Vandalia, IL.|
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