Plant's properties the hook for chemical-conscious growers
By MATTHEW WEAVER
The concept of using mustard as a cover crop and soil enhancer is not a new one.
But Spokane-based Davidson Commodities Inc. is taking a new approach, urging small farmers and home gardeners to try it.
Siblings Kim and Matt Davidson own the company, which sells mustard varieties IdaGold and Pacific Gold, developed by University of Idaho breeder Jack Brown, under the name Mighty Mustard.
As members of the brassica family, mustards contain chemicals that act as natural herbicides and pesticides, Kim Davidson said. They work well in rotation with other crops, such as potatoes and wheat.
The mustards recycle nitrogen, using deep tap roots to access nitrogen deep in the soil and bring it up into the top layers, making it more accessible for other crops.
The Mighty Mustard seed is produced by growers in the Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative, headquartered in Genesee, Idaho.
Bill Newbry, CEO of the cooperative, said small farmers and home gardeners are an untapped market.
"The people we're touching are people concerned about chemicals and sustainability," he said. "They're concerned about the food they eat and the inputs they put into that production."
There are 700 growers within the cooperative, but Newbry said the company is very selective about where it grows Mighty Mustard seed, considering the purity of the non-genetically modified verification.
The cooperative began its efforts about two years ago. Newbry said research has been conducted across the U.S., but nobody had really taken the time to compile it. The Davidsons contacted individual researchers and users. The information is available on the Mighty Mustard website.
"The people that were finding mustard cover crop seed before were people who knew what they were looking for," Matt Davidson said. "We're really bringing it out to the forefront for anybody and everybody to be able to get it."
The company is promoting the mustards to retailers and garden shops throughout the region, with plans to expand to seed distributors and larger retailers across the country.
Mighty Mustard is not as effective as chemicals, Kim Davidson said, but will improve the soil.
The Davidsons are selling the mustards in 25-pound and 2-pound bags, selling at about $75 and $10 apiece, delivered to the door. They received third-party verification from the nonprofit Non-GMO Project, which means organic growers may use the product.
Kim Davidson said the Mighty Mustard varieties are an opportunity to educate users about sustainable farming.
"More people want to farm the way their grandparents and great-grandparents farmed," she said. "We know it's effective and improves the soil."
Mighty Mustard: www.mightymustard.com
Davidson Commodities: www.davidsoncommodities.com
Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative: www.pnw.coop