Crop residue interacting with a spray?

Asked November 21, 2017, 8:16 AM EST

I've lived on and around farms all my life, and am no stranger to the various smells. Usually the worst of the smells dissipate after a while. But this year we have noticed a particularly foul and long-lived odor coming from the harvested bean fields. It started at harvest, but has not dissipated in the weeks since. It is worse than the annual "spilled beer" smell of the beets, worse than the heavy wet stench of the manure slurry when it is spread, and is so strong and nasty it is nauseating. I can't even get my fall yard chores done due to my neighbor's fields, the smell is just too sickening. It's a wide spread problem; driving across M-46 one encounters waves of it when passing various fields. I don't see that anything like biosolids or something was spread; it looks like the normal bean plant residue after harvesting and running over it with a disc. Does anyone know what is happening, or who even to ask about it? Did they use a new spray or something that is interfering with the normal break down of crop residue? Why isn't it dissipating with time? Can we ask the farmers to plow it under, rather than just disc it, would that help? I'd really like some answers, because this is affecting our health and our home, and while everyone is noticing the problem, no one knows how to remedy it.

Bay County Michigan

3 Responses


I read through your message and the only thing possibility I could think of was the smell of a cover crop known as oilseed radish decomposing in the field. In the past the smell has been described as the a "rotting cabbage" smell.

Without knowing where or what you're smelling it's only an option.

Let me know if this is of any help.


Phil Kaatz

Thanks for the response.

Well, that is my big question, as to what I am smelling. It does remind me of a very rotten cabbage, but it has a metallic/chemical overtone to it.

As to where, there's a very bad patch of it along Bay City-Forestville Road near Colling and Caro Roads. And along Atwater Road between M-53 and Bad Axe Roads. And along M-46/M-81 in numerous areas down toward Kingston, Reese, and Frankenmuth, but I don't know the crossroads.

I haven't noticed any cover crops on these fields, but if it was radishes, why would the smell be so persistent, despite the rain, snow, wind, and freezing temps we've had on and off in the weeks since the harvest? Is the use of this radish a new thing? I've never noticed a smell like this before, and my job takes me all over the Thumb/Central Michigan regions.

I will try to find out what the smell is and give you a more educated guess as to what it might be that you're smelling.

I'll let you know asap.