Mike Taylor and his son, Mikey, prevent erosion and wind damage on their 6,500-acre Long Lake Plantation near Helena, Ark., with a “cocktail mix” of winter cover crops. They plant tillage radishes — which can send a tuber as much as 60 inches into the soil —cereal rye, and rape/canola on about half their acreage.
1. A SURREAL LANDSCAPE
IN A SCENE reminiscent of a sci-fi movie, the above-ground portion of tillage radishes is shown post-burndown on Long Lake Plantation near Helena, Ark. The radishes, along with cereal rye and dwarf rape/canola are used as winter cover crops to prevent erosion.
2. BROADCAST SEEDING
COVER CROPS are broadcast-seeded with a Humdinger implement to which a Gandy air seeder has been attached. The system works well, the Taylors say, and provides a significant cost saving over custom application with fertilizer. Cover crops are planted almost immediately behind the combine — the earlier the better, they say.
3. DWARF RAPE/CANOLA
WELLS TAYLOR in a field of Essex dwarf rape/canola, which is being used for the first time this year as a part of the cover crop mix. The root system is more fibrous than the radishes, but the plants produce more vegetative mass to prevent wind damage to young crop plants and to add to soil organic matter.
4. GIANT RADISHES
MIKEY TAYLOR and son Wells check growth of tillage radishes at Mid-December. Some of the radish tubers can extend to a depth of 60 inches. For radishes alone, the Taylors broadcast 8 pounds of seed per acre.
5. PROTECTION FROM WINDS
CROPS ARE PLANTED directly into burned-down cereal rye, tillage radishes, and dwarf rape/canola. The vegetative mass helps prevent soil blowing and protects young seedlings during strong spring winds. The Taylors grow corn, soybeans, wheat, and peanuts.
6. AFTER BURNDOWN
MERRIE LEIGH TAYLOR with the above-ground portion of one of the tillage radishes at burndown. While the decomposing tubers "stink to high heaven" after burndown, the Taylors say, they rot rapidly.
7. SPEEDY GROWTH
THIS RADISH, pulled mid-December, had already reached 24 inches in length. With Mikey Taylor is Long Lake Plantation office manager Harmony Kalb.
8. FAMILY FARMERS
MIKE TAYLOR, left, and his son, Mikey, farm 6,500 acres of grains and peanuts on Long Lake Plantation near Helena, Ark. With them is Wells, Mikey's 2-1/2 year old son.