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Mustard Gaining As Rotational Crop

July 23, 1998

ROSEGLEN, N.D. (AP) _ At a time when disease runs rampant in wheat and barley fields, North Dakota farmers are cutting it with mustard.

``It’s a crop that fits in well in North Dakota into a crop rotation, in rotation with wheat or barley or any of the cereal grains,″ said Dan Lovas of Minn-Dak Growers in Grand Forks. ``It’s a really nice fit.″

North Dakota farmers planted a record amount of mustard last year. Farmers in the state grew 44,000 acres of mustard in 1997, compared with only 9,600 acres in 1996, Lovas said. He expects acreage this year to be about the same as last year.

North Dakota farmers accounted for about 60 percent of nationwide mustard production in 1997.

Farmers are using mustard and other alternative crops such as canola, field peas and crambe in their wheat rotation to break disease, weed and insect cycles. Scab disease problems have been especially prevalent in North Dakota during the past five years.

``Everybody’s looking for a crop to rotate with,″ said Kenneth Hueser, who farms mustard near Roseglen with his son Bill. ``A lot of farmers are beginning to realize that maybe it’s time to have a rotation, and so the mustards, canolas, any of the broadleafs make a rotation for you.″

Minn-Dak mills the seeds into a mustard flower, which food companies throughout the world use in table mustard and salad dressing and as an ingredient in bologna, sausage and hot dogs.

The Continental Grain Co. cleans the seeds and sells them to food companies that make condiment mustard, dressing and spices, said general manager Joe Bloms. Some companies buy the seeds to extract oil, which is used to make cosmetics and soaps.

Although canola has become the most popular alternative crop in North Dakota, some farmers prefer mustard because it is cheaper to seed and less prone to suffer from hot and dry spells. Canola has a better chance of drying up in the heat because it blooms later in the summer than mustard.

But canola has higher yield potential. Farmers can get about 1,500 pounds per acre, compared to about 1,000 pounds per acre for mustard. Canola farmers get about $11 per hundredweight, and mustard farmers get about $14 per hundredweight.

``It’s a lot cheaper crop than canola, and it’s a lot lower risk, but you don’t have the top-end yield potential like you do canola,″ said Ron St. Croix of Kenmare, who has been farming mustard for 20 years.

``I really don’t intend to go to canola because I prefer the mustard. It’s more drought-tolerant, it’s more heat-tolerant,″ he added.

The mustard harvest in North Dakota will pick up in the next few weeks, but it is already starting this week for Byron Richard of Belfield.

``We not only grow it in the springtime, but we also grew some dormant seed in the fall that looks quite well,″ Richard said.

He planted 230 acres of mustard in October. The seeds resisted winter frost and started growing by early spring, which meant his mustard was blooming before the temperatures got hot in the spring.

Regardless of when mustard is put in the ground, the crop is expected to continue as a popular alternative rotational crop.

``I think it’ll continue to be a viable crop and grow,″ Bloms said.

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