An Idaho potato farmer believes he can cut back on his use of fumigation by raising two specific commercial crops — oriental mustard and a promising new spud variety called Clearwater Russet.
John O’Connell reports in the Idaho State Journal that Ritchey Toevs is one of 17 Idaho growers raising oriental mustard for American Falls-based Mountain States Oilseeds. The same chemicals that make mustard spicy, glucosinolate and isothiocyanate, also serve as a natural fumigant, controlling harmful nematodes in his soil.
Toevs has also found he doesn’t need to fumigate potato fields prior to planting Clearwater, which was initially crossed in Aberdeen and has moderate resistance to verticillium wilt, which is spread by the root-lesion nematode, according to O’Connell’s article.
“(Oriental mustard) looks like a good crop,” Toevs said. “It’s not as profitable as wheat, but if we can get a benefit in soil health — if we do not need a fumigant the next year — it would be competitive with small grains.”
Some growers plant a special fumigant mustard variety with higher levels of the beneficial chemicals following wheat harvest. The mustard is then tilled into the soil.