Use Turnips and other Brassica to multiply your fall and
If your operation would be able to utilize grazing forage into the fall and winter after the grasses are no longer available, turnips may be the crop you should grow. Dr. Bruce Anderson suggests that you have an opportunity to extend your grazing season into fall and winter using turnips. Turnips provide good grazing beginning in October that often lasts into the new year. Also, turnips are cheap to plant since seed can cost less than five dollars per acre. And now is the time to plant turnips for fall grazing.
Seedbed preparation and planting can be done several ways. Some turnip growers work soil like a fully prepared alfalfa seedbed. Others heavily disk their ground, but leave it fairly rough. And a few growers spray Roundup or Gramoxone on wheat or oat stubble to kill weeds and then plant no-till.
Dr. Anderson suggests that whatever method you choose, good early weed control is essential. Turnips do poorly if weeds get ahead of them, but once started, turnips compete very well. Since no herbicides are labeled for turnips, weeds must be controlled either by tillage or by using contact herbicides like Roundup or Gramoxone before planting. Then plant quickly to get the turnips off and running.
Plant only 1 to 3 pounds of turnip seed per acre. Turnip seed is very small, so barely cover it. If you drill your seed, just scratch the surface with your openers. Simply broadcasting seed onto tilled soils works well for many growers, especially on rough seedbeds where rainfall washes soil on to the seeds for soil coverage. Some producers have had good luck seeding by airplane into standing corn fields and then using natural rainfall, or pivot irrigation for seed coveage. Then wait. With a few timely rains you will have excellent green feed for October, November, and December.
Terry Gompert, UNL Extension Educator notes that there is a difference in root and top growth between the different types of turnips. On Samples collected from replicated variety plots grown by Brad Young, the total dry matter yield varied from 3.9 ton to 4.6 ton per acre.
York Globe turnip produced 5190 lbs of dry matter in the tops and 3930 lbs. in the root bulbs. Green Globe produced 5691 lbs. in the tops but only 3190 lbs. of dry matter in the roots. Purple Top Turnip produced 4056 lbs of dry matter in the tops and 3752 lbs in the roots. The Barkant Turnip tops produced 5129 lbs and the roots 7489 lbs., but because of the smaller size, only 75% of the root may be available for grazing. The Appin Turnip produced 6866 lbs in the tops with roots at 2067 lbs but only half of that root may be available to graze. A hybrid Turnip (Pasja) was also included but produced only 5332 lbs of top, and no roots available for grazing.
Hybrid Brassicas included in the plot were, Winfred with 7571 lbs dry matter production, Barnapoli at 6707 lbs, Rangiora at 10894 lbs and Dwarf Essex Rape at 8632 lbs of dry matter.