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Cover crops the reason for smell along Highway 54

Posted on Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at 10:03 am

Many area residents may have recently noticed a strong odor when driving on Highway 54.
A distinct, potent smell has been discovered from about the Route B turnoff to Community R-VI. The smell is also strong between the school and Martinsburg as well as between Basinger Corner and Farber.
Reportedly, there have been a few calls to 9-1-1 reporting a possible gas leak in those areas.
Audrain County Sheriff Stuart Miller confirmed the source of the odor.
“Many farmers who were not able to plant a crop this Spring or early Summer planted radishes or turnips; its the radishes and turnips that create the odor,” Sheriff Miller said. “This Spring, the farmers will disc or plow the fields and the radishes and turnips will provide nutrients to the soil.”
Scott Deimeke, owner of Deimeke Seed in Mexico, said the odor comes from a tillage radish or a purple top turnip.
He said the odor is a result from a hard frost in the teens for temperature during a couple of nights. The radishes and turnips then decay as the temperatures increase.
Deimeke said farmers can use a mixture of cover crops with radishes not planted at a higher rate, which reduces the smell significantly.
So what’s the reason for using cover crops? The primary goal for local farmers is to greatly reduce the soil erosion.
With close to five tons per acre of erosion per year, farmers have to combat the issue.
Cover crops help to combat soil compaction as is more of a fertilizer scavenger than it is a producer as it plays the role of a storage tank.
“That’s a significant amount of soil loss,” Deimeke added.
Cover crops also help with reducing nitrate runoff, leaching, and phosphorous algae blooms that have been featured in Iowa waterworks lawsuits, the Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast, and the Lake Erie Algae blooms.
Due to the excessive rain fall last year, a lot of farmers did not get their crops planted so some local farmers are using cover crops this year.
Deimeke said the procedure is beneficial. He noted an increase in corn yields of about 11% and about a 10% increase for soy bean yields.
Farmers with livestock get another benefit as their livestock grazes on the area with the cover crops.
As Spring arrives, some farmers may choose to burn the same fields or use a tillage tool and plant right into the soil.
Many farmers will look to plant corn by April 1 while soy beans are likely planted in May.
Deimeke said many consumers dispute the use of GMOs and non-GMOs.
“If people are con-cerned about wanting to buy more non-GMO, planting tillaged radishes, it can’t get any more organic than planting those,” he noted.