Stuart Schwartz, CUERE, in the Baltimore Sun and TakePart

Radishes: They’re not just for salad anymore. In fact, they may be useful for controlling runoff into the Chesapeake.

Stuart Schwartz, senior scientist with UMBC’s Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education, spoke with Tim Wheeler, an environmental reporter for The Baltimore Sun, for Wheeler’s article, “Radishes get tryout as runoff fighters.”

Wheeler writes: “City and most suburban soil is badly in need of aeration, Schwartz said. He and other researchers have found that even grass-covered ground, just below the surface, is often as dense and impermeable as concrete. Anything heavier than a light rain runs off, washing fertilizer, organic matter and other pollutants into storm drains and nearby streams.”

As it turns out, planting radishes might just help control runoff in urban areas.

“Daikon radishes, a long, white variety of the red ones that often grace salads, can grow taproots as big as a person’s arm. When farmers plant them after a late-summer harvest, their roots bore down through the soil, loosening it. Then, after winter frosts kill the plants, the roots decay, leaving behind deep openings that allow rain to soak in,” writes Wheeler. He continues, further down in the piece, “The deep-rooted radish offers a relatively low-cost, low-tech way to break up urban soil, according to Schwartz, who spent only about $50 for the seed mix. The vacant lot on Perlman Place was provided through a partnership with the city and with Civic Works, a nonprofit that runs Real Food Farm nearby in Clifton Park. The lot is one the city is leasing to Civic Works for expanding its urban agriculture initiative.”

To learn more about radishes, agriculture, runoff and the environment you can also read, Clare Leschin-Hoar’s piece, in TakePart, “Can Radishes Be The Secret Weapon In Protecting Our Water from Big Farming’s Runoff?”