EAST LANSING, Mich. — Mustard cover crops are being grown as part of vegetable rotations in some parts of Michigan. One of the hopes of producers using this crop is that they will provide biofumigation. Specifically, mustard plants contain chemicals called glucosinolates. When tissue of a mustard plant is destroyed, these compounds are broken up into a variety of chemicals, including some that form gases with activity against various soil borne pests. Growing cover crops like mustards and managing them to release these compounds into the soil to help manage soil borne pests, is called biofumigation.
Currently, we cannot recommend biofumigation as a complete alternative to chemical fumigation. Results of research have been inconsistent. However, if you are already growing mustards for other cover crop benefits, there are steps you can take to maximize the chances you will also see benefits from biofumigation. This video from Michigan State University Extension demonstrates best practices for managing mustard cover crops for biofumigation, including implements to use and timing of operations.
— Benjamin Werling, Michigan State University Extension; Daniel Brainard, MSU Department of Horticulture; Dean Baas, MSU Extension; and Zachary Hayden, MSU Department of Horticulture
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