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Ohio State University Extension


Forage Turnip as a Cover Crop in Ohio

Agriculture and Natural Resources
Sarah Noggle; Educator; Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences; Ohio State University Extension, Paulding County
Rachel Cochran; Extension Associate, Water Quality; Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences; Ohio State University Extension, Paulding County

Information gathered from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) was used to compile this summary on how to use forage turnip as a cover crop in Ohio. For more information, see the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and the Cover Crop Selector Tool found at: pulled from the ground, lying on its side, with large, toothy-edged leaves growing from the top of a roundish root vegetable that is colored purple and white.


  • Broad leaves with prominent, lighter-colored midribs
  • Lower leaves that may have a large central lobe with 1–4 pairs of side lobes
  • Smaller, non-lobed upper leaves with a wide base and pointed tip
  • Usually hairless leaves that may have a whitish film
  • Fleshy, enlarged taproot
  • May have yellow flowers clustered at the end of a vertical stem

Cultural Traits

  • Cool-season annual
  • Minimum germination temperature: 45 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Reliable establishment window (state average): Mar. 29–June 11; July 24–Sept. 6
  • Upright growth habit
  • Preferred soil pH: 5.3–6.8
Table 1. Rating the traits of cover crop forage turnip.
Heat tolerance Good
Shade tolerance Good
Winter survival Varies based on specific variety


  • Drilled at ¼–½ inch
    • 1–3 lb./acre (pure live seed)
  • Broadcast with shallow incorporation
    • 2–4 lb./acre (pure live seed)
  • Broadcast without incorporation
    • 3–4 lb./acre (pure live seed)

Additional planting information:

  • 192,800 seeds per lb.
  • When planting on slopes or using for forage/grazing, increase seeding rate.
  • Broadcasting without incorporation is usually less dependable than drilling or broadcasting with incorporation.

Disclaimer: Rules for Financial Assistance Program Recipients
Individuals participating in financial assistance programs are required to follow Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Appendix A regarding seeding rates and dates. Failure to do so will jeopardize payments. Appendix A can be found in Ohio’s Field Office Technical Guide, Section 4, Ecological Sciences Tools:


  • Dry matter = 1,200–3,000 lb. per acre, per year
    • Biomass quantity is highly dependent on planting/termination dates and precipitation.

Additional performance information:

  • Generally better forage for grazing than radishes
  • Should not comprise more than 35% of livestock diet
  • Good for deer plots
  • Non-host for soybean cyst nematode
  • Erosion concern; plant in a mixture
Table 2. Rating the attributes of cover crop forage turnip.
Nitrogen scavenger Good
Soil builder Good
Weed fighter Good
Grazing Excellent
Quick growth Good
Lasting residue Good
Mechanical forage harvest Good
Cash crop interseed Good


  • Tillage
    • If terminating with only tillage, multiple passes are often required.
  • Chemical

Additional termination information:

  • Winter/snow cover conditions may affect winterkill.
  • Follow NRCS guidelines for cover crop termination dates to comply with crop insurance.
Table 3. Potential advantages of cover crop forage turnip.
Soil Impacts
Subsoiler Very good
Frees phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) Good
Compaction fighter Good
Nematodes Very good
Disease Good
Allelopathic (produces biochemicals that inhibit weeds) Very good
Chokes weeds Good
Short windows Very good

Potential Disadvantages

Delayed emergence: could be a minor problem

Increased weed potential: could be a minor problem

  • Can become a serious weed if allowed to go to seed
  • May have a hard seed

Increased insects/nematodes: could be a minor problem

  • Host for root-knot nematode, penetrans root lesion nematode, and sugar beet cyst nematode
  • Risk for white mold

Hinders crops: Occasionally a minor problem


This publication was adapted with consent from the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) with content from the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide, Third Edition, and Cover Crop Selector Tool ( It was created under a joint project with MCCC to produce customized introductory guidance about cover crops for all member states/provinces. Ohio cover crop recipes can be found at

The Midwest Cover Crops Council ( aims to facilitate widespread adoption of cover crops throughout the Midwest by providing educational/outreach resources and programs, conducting new research, and communicating about cover crops to the public.

Funding for this project was provided by the McKnight Foundation.

Red rectangle with white letters spelling McKnight Foundation.



Originally posted Apr 10, 2023.