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Asmita Nagila, Soum Sanogo, O. John Idowu, and Brian J. Schutte

Soil-borne diseases and weeds can be inhibited by mustard family (Brassicaceae) cover crops that are mowed and incorporated into the soil with tillage—a process referred to as biofumigation. To determine whether a fall-seeded mustard cover crop produces enough biomass to be a biofumigant in spring, this study measured the amount of biomass produced by a mixture of ‘Caliente Rojo’ brown mustard (Brassica juncea) and ‘Nemat’ arugula (Eruca sativa) grown in three commercial fields and a university research farm in southern New Mexico, USA. This study also determined whether the mustard biomass incorporated in the soil inhibits a weed [Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri)], but does not affect a cash crop adversely [chile pepper (Capsicum annuum)]. Results indicated that, if the mustard cover crop was seeded before the first frost in fall, mustard cover crops produced biomass in quantities sufficient for biofumigation in spring. Mustard biomass incorporated in the soil reduced the survival and germination of Palmer amaranth seeds. Under greenhouse conditions, chile pepper plants grown in soil with mustard cover crop biomass were larger than chile plants grown in soil without mustard biomass. Chile pepper plants in soil with mustard biomass did not show symptoms of Verticillium wilt (Verticillium dahliae), whereas such symptoms were found on about 33% of chile pepper plants in soil without mustard biomass. These results suggest that a fall-seeded mustard cover crop that is tilled into the soil in early spring is a potential pest management technique for chile pepper in New Mexico.