Environmentally friendly biofumigants fight soil pests but pose rotation challenges

03/01/2011 12:00:00 PM

Indeed, Diane Green, who, with her husband Thom Sadoskiv, operates Greentree Naturals, a certified-organic farm in Sandpoint, Idaho, found that mustards can serve as a catch crop— or trap crop—to kill pests as well as an effective biomass that helps reinvigorate the soil.

Green first used Pacific Gold developed by Brown between rows of broccoli to help control flea beetles.

“We planted the mustard because flea beetles love mustard,” she says. So instead of going into the broccoli, they went into the mustard plants.

“After using the mustard as a trap crop, we ended up cutting it up and tilling it into the soil to use it as a cover crop,” she says. “We were so happy with the results that we repeated that process the following year.”

Mustard works especially well as a cover crop in northern Idaho because it can grow quickly and can endure the cold and early frost season, she says.

Greentree grows 37 kinds of salad greens and more than 100 kinds of vegetables, berries and tree fruit. Green uses Mighty Mustard products as trap crops and as cover crops, she says.



Mighty mustards help battle nematodes, flea beetles


Jack Brown, professor of plant breeding and genetics at the University of Idaho in Moscow, has developed a handful of commercially available mustard cultivars with specific glucosinolates in the plant tissue to serve as green manure biofumigants.

Davidson Commodities Inc. of Spokane, Wash., markets seed from these new products in 2- and 25-pound bags. The cultivars are called IdaGold (yellow mustard) and Pacific Gold (Indian mustard) and are sold under the Mighty Mustard brand, says Kim Davidson, president of Davidson Commodities.

Brown’s newest cultivar—Kodiak—should be available later this year, though it is not part of the Mighty Mustard line.

IdaGold is a weed suppresser, and Pacific Gold helps combat insects, nematodes and fungal pathogens, such as sclerotinia and Verticillium wilt, Brown says. These cultivars were developed through traditional breeding methods and are not genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Kodiak is similar to, but more pungent than, Pacific Gold, he says. Growers can plant Mighty Mustard products in the fall and again in the spring or once a year, Brown says.

He advises waiting at least three weeks after disking Mighty Mustard glucosinolates into the soil before planting fruits or vegetables. That will allow time for their biofumigation properties to diminish so they won’t injure the planted crops.

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