Revised February 2022.
Mustard is an annual, cool-season specialty cash crop that has a short growing season and is commonly grown in rotation with small grains. Mustard is the name given to two closely related species in the Brassica family. Yellow mustard, Sinapis alba L. (also identified as Brassica hirita L.) and Indian, oriental or brown mustard, Brassica juncea L. Mustard is native to temperate regions of Europe and has its historic base there. However, mustard supplies from western Europe were disrupted during World War II, and mustard began being produced as a specialty crop in North America. Nepal, Russia and Canada are currently the largest producers of mustard, globally. Mustard and rapeseed are used as cover crops and have been shown to suppress some soil borne pests. When the mustard plant that is still green is incorporated into the soil and decomposition starts, glucosinolates are released. The breakdown products of these glucosinolates are thought to have biofumigant properties.
Mustard seed is primarily used in the food or condiment industries in the form of either ground seeds or oil. Yellow mustard is the mildest flavored and has a lower oil content. It is most commonly used to produce “mild” prepared mustard for table use but is also used as dry ground mustard for seasoning in mayonnaise, salad dressings and sauces. The flour that is made from yellow mustard is also an excellent emulsifying agent and stabilizer for prepared meats. Brown and oriental types are primarily used for “hot” table mustard and for oil and spices. The leaves and flowers of the brown mustard plant are eaten as salad greens.
Total acres of mustard harvested in the United States was 91,400 acres in 2020. The total production was 81.8 million pounds that was valued at $22.1 million (NASS). Average mustard in 2020 was 895 pounds per acre. Mustard is primarily grown in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon and Washington.
Yellow mustard varieties usually mature in 80 to 85 days, while brown and oriental varieties typically require 90 to 95 days to mature. Mustard is best adapted to grow in fertile, well-drained, loamy soils. Many of the same management practices used for others spring seeded brassica crops can be applied when producing mustard. Shattering can be a concern so if direct combining, do so before the pods are too dry and seeds have 12-15% moisture. Swathing soon after the crop has reached physiological maturity can help reduce shattering. Swathing at a high stubble level can reduced the size of the windrow and provide stubble to anchor the windrow from movement by high winds.
Consumption of mustard has been steady, and any growth in the market for mustard has a direct relationship to population growth. Japan was the primary export market, followed by Canada and Thailand. However, these countries experienced a double-digit decline in mustard seed purchases in recent years. On the other hand, imports have been increasing steadily with Canada and India being major suppliers.
The major market for yellow mustard is the North American condiment industry. Europe is the major market for brown mustard for use as a condiment, often in the form of specialty mustards such as Dijon. Asia is the major market for oriental mustard, a type of brown mustard, for use as spicy cooking oil and condiments. Growers should always have a contract before growing mustard.
Sources and Other Resources
- Crop Production Annual Summary, 2021, National Ag Statistical Service (NASS), USDA.
- Crop Values, 2021, Annual Summary, NASS, USDA.
- Global Agricultural Trade System (GATS), Foreign Ag Service, USDA.
- Mustard: Hot stuff for natural pest control, 2008, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia. Report on using mustard to manage soil-borne pests and weeds being researched.