Turnip cover crops

Orvin Bontrager  |   November 28, 2011

Planting turnips or other cool season cover crops is gaining in popularity in Nebraska, especially on seed corn production fields.  Usually the seed at 2-5 pounds per acre is broadcast behind the machines that are chopping out or removing the male inbred.  This allows the plants to become established while the field is still being watered.  Taller and denser foliage corn inbreds have enough shading that the young turnip plants will grow very little, if at all, until the corn is harvested.


As the crop is removed the cover crop grows rapidly from more light exposure and removing the residual nitrogen in the soil.  This fall the very dry conditions have limited the growth to some degree.


Cattle have been placed in most of the fields to graze the tops and even the turnip root that is largely exposed above the soil surface.  Below is a field that has been heavily grazed and shows the top feeding on some of the roots.

The down side of the turnips are some cattle may be negatively effected by eating the tops, until they get used to eating the plants.  The large roots can cause some choking and even death if not monitored very closely.

The turnips this fall have dried out the soil significantly because of lack of rain.  Winter and spring moisture will need to refill the top 2-3 feet of soil or the 2012 summer crop will start off short of moisture.

The author does not guarantee the accuracy of the information contained in this feature, although it is believed to be accurate. The author assumes no liability or responsibility for direct or indirect, special, consequential or incidental damages or for any other damages relating or arising out of any action taken as a result of information or advice contained in this report. The author disclaims any express or implied liability or responsibility for any action taken, which is solely at the liability of and responsibility of the user.

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