Advancing Organic Potato Production with Mustard Seed Meal Extract: a multi-pronged tool to control weeds, promote soil health, and improve potato nutrition

Weed management, soil health, and nutritional quality of organically produced foods are among the highest priority organic research topics according to organic farmers across the US, and abundant peer-reviewed research supports these perspectives. Utilizing innovative organic agricultural practices that improve soil health, combat weeds, and enhance the nutritional quality of staple foods will enable farmers to successfully meet the challenges of feeding a rising global population. Our overall goal is to discover effective weed management strategies for organic potato production that promote healthy soils and nutritious potatoes. We will attain this goal through the following four objectives: 1) evaluate the efficacy of mustard seed meal extract  (MSME) on inhibiting weed seed germination (pre-emergent) and killing aboveground weed growth (post-emergent); 2) determine the influence of MSME application on soil health, with particular focus on soil microbiological function; 3) evaluate the influence of MSME on the nutritional quality of potatoes; and 4) assess the efficacy of MSME to act as a pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicide against common annual broadleaf and grass weed species under greenhouse conditions. We will test these objectives through field experiments on certified organic farms and in greenhouse experiments. Laboratory analyses will be conducted to assess soil properties, microbiological function, and potato nutritional quality. Expected outcomes include increased knowledge of the efficacy of MSME as a bioherbicide; adoption of MSME by organic and non-organic farmers as a weed management strategy; and positive environmental,  economic, health, and social impacts to farmers and the communities in which they live.