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  • Norfolk Farms

From Condiment To Weapon Against Pests

How Mustard Biofumigation May Revolutionise Pest Control


Mustard Harvesting with a tractor
Mustard Harvesting

For centuries, many gardeners have implemented the use of marigolds, chrysanthemums and petunias to control garden pests naturally.  Now farmers, seeking alternatives to chemicals used to control pests and pathogens, are turning to plants from the Brassicaceae family as biofumigants with notable success.


Brassicaceae plants include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and mustard, which can release inhibitory chemicals containing fungicidal as well as nematicidal components, so it is reasonable that more widespread research of mustard as an alternative to heavily regulated and environmentally damaging chemical treatments is on the rise.


Just over a decade ago, for example, maritime potato farmers began planting thousands of acres of brown mustard because of the biofumigant contained within its roots which aided them in the fight against wireworm.  It became so widespread that many assumed the mustard, which didn’t in itself provide revenue, was actually a surge in canola growth sweeping the province’s fields with a yellow hue.


Although biofumigation of this nature does require the adherence to a specific set of procedures, the concept itself is simple:  Specially potent varieties of mustard is grown, chopped with a flail mower before flowering, and immediately turned into the moist soil to promote the release of the component “isothiocyanates”, which not only gives the vegetable their spicy or bitter taste, but also combats many nematodes, wireworm, common scab, and a long list of fungi.  When possible, the field is then covered with tarps to contain the gases while the plant materials break down and biofumigation takes full effect.


In addition to being a useful biofumigant, mustard also provides farmers the typical advantages of cover crop usage such as the prevention of soil erosion, as well as improved soil nutrients. 

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