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Mustard

In Canada, commercial mustard production began with 40 hectares planted in southern Alberta in 1936. Since then, the crop has become a valuable option in the brown and dry brown soil zones. Today, Saskatchewan producers are the world’s largest mustard exporters.

Mustard Types

Three mustard types, derived 
from two different species, 
are grown in Saskatchewan. 
Three mustard types, derived from two different species, are grown in Saskatchewan.
  1. Yellow Mustard (Sinapis alba)
    The major market for yellow mustard is the North American condiment industry where uses include traditional hot dog mustard, mayonnaise and salad dressings. Yellow mustard is also a water-binding agent and protein extender in prepared meats.
  2. Brown Mustard (Brassica juncea)
    Europe is the primary market for brown mustard; the major use is as a condiment.
  3. Oriental Mustard (Brassica juncea)
    Asia is the primary market for oriental mustard where it is used as cooking oil and as a condiment.

The Importance of a Good Start

As with any crop, success relies on production practices in previous years. A proper long-term crop rotation and pest management strategy will help ensure a good foundation for mustard. Mustard seed is very small and young seedlings require specific attention as this period is critical in determining final yield. 

The Importance of Uniformity

In mustard production, uniformity is key to success. A uniform crop has more potential to withstand weed, insect and disease pressure, while a non-uniform crop is difficult to gauge for pesticide application, swathing and crop dry-down. Crop rotation, residue management, seedbed preparation, seeding date, seeding rate and fertility are crucial to uniform crop establishment.  

Crop Rotation

Crop rotation, which affects insect, weed and disease pressure, is an important part of any crop production system. Disease control, admixtures and moisture management are three important considerations with respect to mustard in a crop rotation.

Disease Control 

Particular attention must be paid to crop residue and crop history. Mustard is susceptible to sclerotinia, which affects canola, field peas and several other broadleaved crops and weeds. The general rotation for sclerotinia control in canola, a very similar crop to mustard, is one canola crop in four years. However, the disease does not present as high of a production risk in mustard growing areas due to the less favorable environmental conditions. If sclerotinia was a problem in the past, the frequency of susceptible crops in the rotation should be limited.

Admixtures

Consider admixtures of weeds and volunteer crops, which can affect mustard quality, as part of your rotation.

Table 1: Maximum limits of conspicuous admixture for primary and export grade mustard (per cent)

Grade Sclerotinia Cow Cockle Wild Mustard Canola Other Classes
No. 1 Canada 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.5
No. 2 Canada 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.2
No. 3 Canada 0.3 0. 0.3 0.3 5.0

Source: Canadian Grain Commission

Moisture Management

Mustard is traditionally grown in the brown and dry brown soil zones where moisture is often the limiting production factor. By rotating between deep- and shallow-rooted crops, crop rotation can affect soil moisture. Shallow-rooted crops perform well after deep-rooted crops, because moisture recharge occurs first near the soil surface. Consequently, deep-rooted crops prefer following shallow-roots because they can take advantage of unused moisture deep in the soil profile.

Table 2: Relative rooting depth of various crops

Deep Moderate Shallow
Alfalfa Barley Field
Sunflower Canola Pea
  Mustard Flax
  Wheat Lentil

Residue Management

Mustard is a very small-seeded crop and good residue management is essential for the crop to uniformly reach the first true leaf stage. Uneven residue distribution means soil warms unevenly which may result in patchy germination. Residue conserves moisture and as a result, areas with less trash may dry out faster, leading to patchy germination and an uneven crop stand. 

Variety Selection

Consider several factors when selecting a mustard variety. Within each class, little variation exists for maturity, seed weight, chlorophyll, plant height or blackleg tolerance. 

Table 3: Mustard variety characteristics 

Variety and Type Yield Plant Height
(cm)
Volatile Oil
(mg/g seed)
 Fixed Oil
(% seed)
Protein
(% seed)
Seed Weight
(g/1000)
Maturity
(days)
Yellow (% AC Pennant)
AC Pennant 100 96 n/a 29.5 34.3 5.7 92
AAC Adagio 103 103 n/a 30.1 33.0 5.1 94
Andante 101 102 n/a 28.4 35.1 6.0 93
Brown (% Duchess)
Duchess 100 113 9.4 38.1 28.7 2.7 92
Amigo 94 109 13.9 34.2 30.7 2.7 98
Centennial Brown 101 117 10.4 36.3 30.1 3.1 92
Oriental (% Cutlass)
Cutlass 100 115 11.6 41.0 29.1 2.8 91
Forage 97 125 12.2 38.9 29.6 2.6 92
AC Vulcan 98 116 12.4 40.6 29.5 2.9 91
There is not a lot of variation in disease tolerance, maturity or yield for the mustard varieties available. However, contract requirements and other varietal factors can influence variety selection. For yellow mustard, there is also variation in the amount of mucilage for the three different varieties which may be a factor for variety selection. AAC Adagio has the highest mucilage levels when compared to AC Pennant and Andante.

Certified Seed

Mustard buyers, processors and consumers are quality-conscious. The Canadian Grain Commission determines the specifications for number one mustard seed and these specifications determine the acceptable level of weed seeds, volunteers and other classes of mustard. Using certified seed ensures that the crop you plant has a good opportunity to achieve a number one, high quality product. Using certified seed will also decrease the chance of introducing new diseases and weeds to previously unaffected fields.

Seedbed Preparation

A mustard seedbed should be firm, moist and uniform. A firm seedbed allows good seed-to-soil contact, even planting depth and quick moisture absorption leading to uniform germination. Seedbed preparation depends on the production system.

Conventional Tillage

With conventional tillage systems, pay particular attention to moisture management. Complete the first tillage operation in the fall or in the spring; bury, mix or leave trash relatively undisturbed. Generally, complete a second tillage operation before seeding to evenly distribute the trash and to reduce the size of lumps. Pack during the second tillage to reduce lump size, conserve moisture and create a firm seedbed.

Minimum or Zero Tillage

Success with minimum or zero tillage requires even distribution of crop residue, since no opportunity to spread trash exists with a tillage operation. Spread residue the width of the swath when harvesting, but if that is not possible, harrow in the fall when the straw is dry. Following a well-designed crop rotation and evenly distributing residue will create a firm, moist and uniform seedbed.

Seeding Date

Planting mustard early will allow the crop to mature before the hottest part of the year. Field experiments in southwest Saskatchewan show the benefit of planting all types of mustard early. This test did not include brown mustard; performance of oriental mustard is a good indicator of the performance of brown mustard under similar conditions.

Table 4: Mustard yield in response to seeding date in southwest Saskatchewan (1994 – 1997)

Yield (% of May 10 – 15 seeding date)
  Apr 28 – May 6
May 10 – May 15
May 22 – May 31
Yellow Mustard 123 100 84
Oriental Mustard 101 100 80

Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Branch

Seeding Rate

The seeding rate for brown and oriental mustard is 4.5 - 6.7 kg/ha (4 – 6 lbs/ac) and for yellow mustard 7.8 - 11.2 kg/ha (7 – 10 lbs/ac). Mustard can compensate for low seeding rates with increased branching; however, low plant densities will increase the time to maturity and make the crop more susceptible to the effects of insect, weed and disease pressure.

Seeding Depth

Seeding depth is dependent on soil moisture regardless of mustard type. If conditions are moist, plant seed 12 – 25 mm (½ - 1 inch) deep. If the soil is dry, three options exist: seed deeper into moisture, seed into dry soil and wait for rain or delay seeding. If the soil temperature is high enough to encourage fast germination and quick growth, seeding deeper may be an option. If the soil temperature is below 10°C, do not seed deeper that 25 mm (1 inch). Do not seed mustard deeper than 37 – 50 mm (1 ½ - 2 in) deep. Seeding into dry soil or delaying seeding is an option, but consider the benefits of early versus late seeding.

Endnotes

  1. Due to similarities, canola serves as a model for some recommendations.
  2. Where alternative data was not available, brown and oriental mustard recommendations are equivalent to one another because they are the same species. 

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