You have reached an information page.
product prices visit our store at
Phone Business hours - Mon-Fri. 9-5 EST ONLY - Contact via
| Farmseeds.com - An Informational Website From Seedland.com
A Brief History of Turnips Used For Forage
Turnip (Brassica rapa L.) is a root Brassica crop and has been used as a vegetable for human consumption in Europe since prehistoric times. Turnip root has been a popular
livestock fodder for at least 600 years wherever the crop can be grown. For most of that time turnip roots only have been managed as forage. Researchers in the United States determined in the
early 1900s that turnip roots are valuable energy sources for young ruminant animals. However, livestock farmers at that time were turning away from the Brassica root crops (which also
include rutabagas or Swedes) for fodder because much hand labor was required for the production and utilization of the large roots. One study showed that the labor requirement on a
nutrient basis for these crops was three times that needed for corn silage production.
In the late 1970s, however, researchers began to demonstrate the potential of turnip as pasture. The development of varieties with partially exposed roots rendered the roots more
available to grazing animals. Livestock graze turnip tops and roots readily, and the forage is of high quality. Grazing eliminates the need for manual labor in harvesting and storing. In
general, the root Brassicas are fast-growing, high yielding and well adapted to seeding into existing pastures with little or no tillage or to seeding into a conventionally prepared
Turnip is a cool-weather crop and well adapted for the northern parts of the United States and Europe and for Great Britain and Canada. However, truck-growing areas of the South also
produce turnip roots and greens in all seasons for human consumption.
Turnip Forage Considerations
Turnip produces high-quality forage but must be grazed or harvested before heading. Livestock will eat the stems, leaves and roots of turnip plants. Above-ground parts normally contain 20 to 25% crude protein,
65 to 80% in vitro digestible dry matter (IVDDM), about 20% neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and about 23% acid detergent fiber (ADF). The roots contain 10 to 14% crude protein and 80 to 85%
The high levels of glucosinolates (which can cause thyroid enlargement in young growing sheep and cattle) can be a problem if turnip forage is fed for long enough. Glucosinolates are
higher in older (90-day) than 60-day forage. Oral or subcutaneous iodine administration can alleviate thyroid problems. Turnip roots usually are higher in glucosinolates than the tops and
leaves. Two other anti-quality factors, S-methyl cysteine sulphoxide (SMCO) and free nitrates can also be present. SMCO is the main problem and can cause anemia. To minimize the potential
for animal health problems from these factors, forage from turnips should be fed in combination with other forages such as Sorghum, Pearl Millet or small oats.
Turnip and other Brassicas can provide grazing at any time during the summer and fall depending on the seeding date. A promising use may be for late fall grazing. These crops maintain
their forage quality, if not headed, well into the fall even after freezing temperatures and may be grazed in the Upper Midwest into November. Many turnips can be grazed twice to permit
utilization of top growth and roots.
Turnip Growth Habits
The Turnip is a Brassica and a member of the mustard family that is related to cabbage and cauliflower. Turnip is a biennial which generally forms seed the second year or
even late in the fall in the first year if planted early in the spring. During the first or seeding year 8 to 12 erect leaves, 12 to 14 in. tall with leaf blades 3 to 5 in. wide are
produced per plant.
Turnip leaves are usually light green, thin and sparsely pubescent (hairy). In addition, a white-fleshed, large global or tapered root develops at the base of the leaf
petioles. The storage root varies in size but usually is 3 to 4 in. wide and 6 to 8 in. long. The storage root of Turnips can overwinter in areas of mild winter or with adequate snow cover for
insulation and produce 8 to 10 leaves from the crown in a broad, low-spreading growth habit the following spring.
Branched flowering stems 12 to 36 in. tall are also produced. The flowers
are clustered at the top of the raceme and are usually raised above the terminal buds. Turnip flowers are small and have four light-yellow petals.
Forage Turnip Environmental Requirements
Brassicas are both cold-hardy and drought-tolerant. Turnip seed can be planted late-even as a second crop-and provide high-quality grazing late in the fall. Turnip planted in July will provide
grazing from September to November. The most vigorous root growth takes place during periods of low temperature (40° to 60°F) in the fall. The leaves maintain their nutritional quality
even after repeated exposure to frost and in fact become sweeter much to the delight of livestock and other foraging animals.
Like other Brassicas, turnip grows best in a moderately deep loam, fertile and slightly acid soil. Turnip does not do well in soils that are of high clay texture, wet or poorly drained.
For good root growth turnip needs a loose, well aerated soil.
Planting Turnip In Pastures
Turnip seed is small thus it is essential that it be seeded into a fine, firm seedbed with adequate moisture for germination. Plow and disk or harrow to produce a seedbed that is fine,
firm and free of weeds and clods.
Turnip, as other Brassicas, can also be seeded into a sod or into stubble of another crop with minimum tillage required. When seeding into sod, the sod should be suppressed or killed, as the young
Turnip seedlings cannot compete with established grasses. Once established, turnip will compete with most weeds.
Direct drilling turnip seed into sod includes the benefits of fewer crop losses due to insect pests, such as the flea beetle, and less soil erosion on sloping sites where pastures are often
located. A field of turnip established in sod gives animals a firm footing in all kinds of weather. It also allows the original sod to grow again the following spring if it has only been
Turnip should not be planted until the soil temperature is at least 50°F. The crop can be planted any time during the summer until about 70 days before a killing frost.
Method and Rate of Seeding
Turnip seed can be planted in 6 to 8 in. rows at a rate of 1.5 to 2.5 lb/acre with a minimum-till drill when sod seeding. In conventionally prepared seedbeds, the crop can be seeded
with a forage crop seeder or broadcast followed by culti-packing. The seed should not be covered with more than 1/2 in. of soil. A plant population of 5 to 6 per sq. ft. is desirable.
Fertility and Lime Requirements
Good soil fertility is very important for good turnip yields. Soil tests should be taken to assure proper fertilization. Lime acid soils to pH 6.0. Fertilizers should be applied at the time of
seeding or within 3 days of seeding to give the crop a competitive edge on weeds. A soil test should be conducted to assure the proper nutrients are available for your turnip stand.
Turnip Variety Selection
As stated before, there are new varieties of forage turnips that have been developed with traits such as disease and pest resistant and shorter maturity times such as the
available at Seedland.com.
Weeds are generally not a problem once a turnip crop is established. However, sod and annual weeds should be controlled chemically and/or culturally before planting. Tillage
before planting can be used for weed control on a conventional seedbed.
Turnip Diseases and Their Control
There are new varieties of turnip that are resistant to the following problems that are associated with turnips. It is also important that you plant and maintain turnips
for your location or environment.
Turnip crops may suffer from clubroot, root knot, leaf spot, white rust, scab, anthracnose, turnip mosaic virus and rhizoctonia rot. in some cases, diseases can lead to crop failure if
rotation or other control measures are not used. Resistant varieties are available for some diseases. To prevent problems with diseases, Brassicas should not be grown on the same site more
than two years in a row. If clubroot is a problem, rotation should be six years.
Insects and Other Predators and Their Control
Turnip crops are attacked by two different flea beetles, which eat holes in the cotyledons and first leaves, chew stems and cause extensive plant loss. The cabbage flea beetle and the
striped flea beetle feed exclusively on Brassicas, including related weeds such as yellow rocket. Problems with these flea beetles are much greater when Brassicas are grown under
conventional tillage. Both flea beetles can be controlled with insecticides applied to the soil at planting.
Turnip crops can also be damaged by infestations of the common turnip louse or aphid. This insect feeds on the undersides of the leaves and may be so close to the ground that it is
difficult to reach with a dust or a spray. In cases of severe infestation, the outer leaves curl and turn yellow. Aphid-tolerant varieties such as 'Forage Star' can give some protection
against this insect.
Grazing Turnips - Important Considerations
Turnip plants are ready for grazing or green-chop when the forage is about 12 in. tall (70 to 90 days after planting). It is best not to wait too long because fungal diseases may begin
to cut yields approximately 110 days after planting. The pasture should be grazed for a short time and the livestock removed to allow the plants to re-grow. If grazed to a 5 in. stubble, 1
to 4 grazing periods may occur, depending on planting date and growing conditions. Strip or block-grazing is desirable to insure complete grazing.
The forage quality of turnip is sufficiently high, especially in protein, that it should be considered similar to concentrate feeds, and precautions should be taken to prevent animal
health problems. Livestock should not be hungry when put on pasture the first time so they do not gorge themselves. If the livestock are moving from a feed low in nutritional value, feed a
high-quality diet for two to three weeks prior to grazing turnip, or feed turnip for 30 min/day for one week prior to heavier grazing. This will allow for the development of a rumen
microbial population that is adequate to digest the high levels of protein in forage turnips. A lower quality hay should be made available (2 to 3 lb of dry roughage/head/day for sheep and
10 to 15 lb for cattle) to provide some fiber in the animals' diet.
Livestock should not feed on turnip during the breeding season or after the plants have begun to flower. Nitrate nitrogen toxicity can be a problem, especially if ruminants are allowed
to graze on immature crops or if soil nitrogen levels are high. The risk may remain for a longer period of time in autumn than in summer. Dairy cows should not be fed more than 50 lb
turnip/head/day and should not be milked immediately after feeding on turnip to avoid milk tainting.
Yield Potential and Performance Results
Yields of forage turnip range between 3 and 4 tons of dry matter/acre when harvested or grazed about 90 days after planting. Up to 1,000 grazing days/acre for 900 lb steers and 2,300
grazing days/acre for 90 lb lambs have been obtained for Forage Star turnip.
Turnip is a highly nutritious forage crop that has a short growing season and can provide late fall grazing after other forage crops are finished for the year. Check our Seed prices
online at Seedland.com.
Information courtesy of University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension.