Ethiopian Cabbage in a Cover Crop Cocktail Mix

Ethiopian cabbage, courtesy greencoverseed.com

ETHIOPIAN CABBAGE

Brassica carinata, also sometimes referred to as B. abyssinica, Ethiopian mustard or rapeseed.

The pic is from here, describing how the Ethiopian cabbage stays upright well after ripening, unlike the radish on the left which rots away quickly.  Mr Gabe Brown mentioned it to me when I spoke about seeking upright sp in the mixes in the early days, and I see he has dealings  with Greencoverseed.com, who are dedicated to supplying cover crop seed in USA, as well as research results and advice.

The use of brassicas in cc mixes has to do with nutrient capture, deep rooting, water use, sp diversity and allelopathic effects, among other reasons.  Which is fine until we want to grow canola the following year.  As always, plantback times are considered before including anything in the cc mix.  Having said that, in my conversations with seed reps, blackleg in brassicas should not be too much of a problem in a short summer growth.

Ethiopian Cabbage is not normally grown here:  apart from the occasional ebay listing, and seed savers , seed here is scarce.  It seems I’d have to import the bulk seed – a future bridge to cross.  Foodies and gardeners like Scarecrow grow it.  I have sourced some seed via the kind Loretta from rastaseed.com , but if the cabbage in trials and paddocks flowers in green/yellow/red and sing Bob Marley songs I’m going to freak out!  We shall see how it goes in the next summer trial.

It is uncommonly listed as a cover crop sp, especially in summer mixes since it is a winter crop.  Can I source seed here anywhere else, and is there a need to supply it (ie, should I be growing it for seed?)  And I intend to touch on other brassicas (rape, pasja, turnip, kale) in other posts.

Brassicas as Residue Reducers.

I have been challenged by the idea that brassicas are Residue Reducers.  If we grow tall canola in the winter, windrow and strip it, it is possible to leave 3′ stubble.  IF interrow sowing, it is easy to leave it tall and standing, (and I can’t wait to do it again) but it still leaves relatively little trash by weight.  It doesn’t seem that way if you try to cultivate it and sow conventially – you’d be inviting blockage trouble at sowing.  We used to sow canola on long fallows because of research showing it gave the greatest profit gain on using the stored moisture (compared to wheat, chickpeas etc).  However, if we take a wheat stubble and fallow it, conventionally, (and so break down stubble, and seemingly {another discussion} burn up existing soil carbon to do so), then sow canola, we leave very little SRR (surface-retained residue).  And it has to do with (my observations) the way the senescing bottom leaves cover the ground and rot, both themselves and whatever they keep wet.  This has a big  implication in the goal of keeping SRR (or alternatively, to rot weed seeds), both in the rotation frequency of growing brassicas, and their use in the cc mix.  And that may change as our microbial populations find new equilibriums as our systems develop. It’s just something to consider.  In the meantime, in our summers we know that canola will germinate and die without adequate rain, or thrive to flowering at the next sowing with adequate rainfall.

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About covercropper

G'day, I'm a grain grower in the NW Wimmera area of Victoria, Australia. This blog is to share my journey of exploring cover cropping here, mostly summer mixes /cocktails. How to, what, when, will it work in improving our soils, productivity and profits?
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One Response to Ethiopian Cabbage in a Cover Crop Cocktail Mix

  1. covercropper says:

    Allan Lill from Norwest Seed Ltd in New Zealand http://www.norwestseed.co.nz/ , who has helped me out with another seed, would consider exporting supplies of Ethiopian Cabbage if asked. They keep up a constant fresh supply, important for oilseeds (since the oil content can go rancid, affecting germination – apparently very important in soybeans.) If any individual or importing company is considering importing a quantity, feel free to sing out or advertise yourselves here, and I will be interested in a quantity myself. This blog alone is getting much interest in Ethiopian Cabbage.

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