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What's Wrong with This Picture?

February 12, 2012
  • White radishes were planted as a winter cover crop for soil- conservation purposes at Antietam National Battlefield. The radishes are left to decay and the next crop is planted on top of them in the spring.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

The problem: “Someone should research the reason behind the horrific smell around Antietam Battlefield,” Kendra Harmon wrote in an email. “The smell on most days in Sharpsburg and behind the battlefield on Old Keedysville road is unbearable!”

Harmon said she heard the smell was coming from rotting vegetables and wondered why they were left to rot instead of being harvested.

Who could fix it: National Park Service

What they say: The smell is coming from white radishes that were planted as a winter cover crop for soil- conservation purposes, said Ed Wenschhof, chief ranger at Antietam National Battlefield.

“A lot of times farmers use winter wheat or some other crop to cover the soil for the winter months so there’s not exposed soil to the wind and rain and snow,” Wenschhof said. “Some newer trends have the farmers using these radish crops, and they also provide the benefit of fertilizing the soil. They get that long taproot on them that helps break up compacted soils.”

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For that reason, the radishes are not picked, he said. They are left to decay and the next crop is planted on top of them in the spring.

Local farmers use battlefield land for crops and grazing through an agriculture special-use permit program, Wenschhof said.

This is the second year farmers have planted radishes on the battlefield, he said.

Wenschhof acknowledged the decaying radishes have a strong smell.

“It is a temporary thing while they rot in the winter months,” he said. “It goes along with other agricultural smells.”

  — Compiled by Heather Keels

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What's Wrong With This Picture

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Hagerstown MD 21740
You can email the information to lindad@herald-mail.com.

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