Runoff from a variety of land uses, including agriculture and industry, has been identified as one of the primary causes of harmful algal blooms (PDF) in the Great Lakes and surrounding waterways. The danger of these algal blooms comes in the form of botulism outbreaks, toxins, and harmful metabolites – all of which can have serious consequences for native plants, fish, and human health. 
One potential solution that has been in use in Ohio is the planting of radishes, not only to help manage water and runoff, but also to improve soil quality for agricultural users. 
“The radishes planted in northwest Ohio go in about this time of year and are left in the ground to die, explained our host, Allen Dean. Planting doomed radishes, it turns out, is an innovative technique he has used in recent years to improve soil nutrients and reduce runoff from his Williams County farm.
Here’s the basics on how it works: Farmers plant seeds for a plant called an oilseed radish. It doesn’t actually have to be that plant, but it needs to grow a foot or longer into the soil during the fall in a tubular shape, like a carrot or a parsnip. It also needs to grow a fair amount of foliage up on the ground. Radishes are usually more affordable.
It’s important that the plant drill down into the soil so that when it dies, usually during a mid-January freeze, it decays and leaves behind a v-shaped hole for snow and water to penetrate deeper. The decayed radishes Dean showed us looked like organic socks.
Oilseed radishes are particularly good at absorbing nutrients from the surface and sending them down into the soil as the tubular plant drills it way into the ground.”
Read the complete article above to find out more about how these plants are helping farmers and protecting the Great Lakes waters at the same time.
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