Mighty Mustard - The mustard plant was tested as a cover crop option for producing a large amount of biomass in a short time. NRCS and Extension specialists experimented at Dakota Lakes Research Farm and another site on a farm near Huron, SD, with using mustard in a cover crop demonstration plot. Two types of mustard were evaluated: Pacific Gold and Idagold. “Both did very well. Pacific Gold is taller, but the Idagold is stronger stemmed – it may stand up better under snow cover this winter. We’re still evaluating how the mustards fit into South Dakota cover crop mixtures,” explains Jason Miller, Conservation Agronomist with NRCS, Pierre, SD.
In the field, rolling was used to kink the stems in an effort to reduce seed pods and seed viability. “For producers looking to increase organic matter, and a whole host of benefits including weed control and disease suppression, the strengths of mustard is that it grows a lot of biomass in a short amount of time,” explains Miller. “However, the downfall is that it is a spring type plant and will produce seed if seeded to early in the fall as a cover crop. We will need to determine appropriate methods in reducing the flowering of this species if it is to be used in SD as a viable cover crop. The mustard had the most growth of the cover crops we reviewed this year,” says Miller. “Even with the dry fall, there was a tremendous amount of biomass produced at both sites in Hughes and Beadle Counties.”
Photo by USDA NRCS SD Jason Miller, Pierre.