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Brassica nigra (L.) Koch

Black or Brown mustard

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Toxicity
  5. Description
  6. Germplasm
  7. Distribution
  8. Ecology
  9. Cultivation
  10. Harvesting
  11. Yields and Economics
  12. Energy
  13. Biotic Factors
  14. References


Black mustard is cultivated for its seeds, the source of commercial table-mustard, used as a condiment and medicine. Seeds contain both a fixed and an essential oil, used as a condiment, illuminant, lubricant, and soap constituent. Black mustard is mixed with white mustard (Sinapis alba) to make mustard flour, used in various condiments as "English Mustard" when mixed with water and "Continental Mustard" with vinegar. Mustard flowers are good honey producers. Mustard is agriculturally used as a cover crop. Mustard oil (allyl isothiocyanate) is used in cat and dog repellents.

Folk Medicine

Mustard is considered diuretic, emetic, rubefacient and stimulant. Mustard plaster is used externally for many afflictions, as arthritis and rheumatism. A liquid prepared from the seed, when gargled, is said to help tumors of the "sinax." Seed decoctions are used for indurations of the liver and spleen. It is also used for carcinoma, throat tumors, and imposthumes. Mustard relieves congestion by drawing the blood to the surface as in head afflictions, neuralgia, spasms. Hot water poured on bruised seeds makes a stimulant foot bath, good for colds and headaches. Old herbals suggested mustard for alopecia, epilepsy, snakebite, and toothache. Mustard Oil is said to stimulate hair growth. Mustard is also recommended as an aperient ingredient of tea, useful in hiccough. Mustard flour is considered antiseptic. Oil also useful in pleurisy and pneumonia.


Most important consituent in mustard is a glucoside sinigrin, or potassium myronate, which, upon hydrolysis, yields allyl isothiocyanate, a volatile liquid known as Oil of Mustard. Sinigrin is toxic to certain insect larvae, harmless to others (Leung, 1980). Per 100 g, the leaf is reported to contain 31 calories, 89.5 g H2O, 3.0 g protein, 0.5 g fat, 5.6 g total carbohydrate, 1.1 g fiber, 1.4 g ash, 183 mg Ca, 50 mg P, 3.0 mg Fe, 32 mg Na, 377 mi, K, 4200 mg b-carotene equivalent, 0.11 mg thiamine, 0.22 mg riboflavin, 0.8 mg niacin, and 97 mg ascorbic acid. Per 100 g, the mature seed is reported to contain 7.6 g H2O, 29.1 g protein, 28.2 g fat, 30.2 g total carbohydrate, 11.0 g fiber, and 0.5 g ash.


Ingestion of powdered mustard seed or of volatile oil of mustard in sufficient amount results in gastroenteritis "which may prove fatal" (Watt and Breyer-Brandwijk, 1962).


Much-branched, aromatic, fast-growing, pubescent annual herb, to 4 m tall, with taproot; lower leaves lyrate-pinnatisect, With 1–3 pairs of lateral lobes and larger terminal lobe, hispid on both surfaces; upper leaves linear-oblong, entire or sinuate, glabrous, dentate, all leaves petiolate; flowers in enlongate racemes, regular petals yellow, 7–9 mm long, stamens 6, fruit a silique, long slender beaked pod, 1.0–2.0 cm long, smooth cylindrical, 1.5–2 mm wide with 10–12 seeds, beak seedless, on short (2.5–6 mm) pedicels; seeds dark reddish-brown to black, oval to spherical, about 1 mm in diameter, more or less covered with white pellicle, taste pungent. Fl. May–June; fr. June–Oct.


Many cvs developed, include 'English', 'Barn, 'Trieste' and 'California'. Reported from the Eurosiberian, and African Centers of Diversity, black mustard or cvs thereof is reported to tolerate aluminum, laterite, low pH, poor soil, smog and weed. (n = 4–11, 2n = 16.)


Origin unknown, but some believe it to be from a Mediterranean center with a secondary center in the Near East. Now widespread in Central and South Europe, and other areas with a temperate climate. A frequent weed of waste places and cultivated fields.


Black mustard, adapted to a wide variety of climatic conditions, is mainly suited to tropical areas, and grown chiefly as a rainfed crop in areas of low or moderate rainfall. Suited to many types of soils except very heavy clays; grows best on light sandy loams, or deep rich fertile soils. Ranging from Boreal Wet through Tropical Desert to Dry Forest Life Zones, black mustard is reported to tolerate annual precipitation of 3 to 17 dm (mean of 40 cases = 8.5), annual temperature of 6 to 27°C (mean of 40 cases = 12.7), and pH of 4.9 to 8.2 (mean of 34 cases = 6.5) (Duke, 1978, 1979).


Land should be prepared in fall to a fine tilth, as the seeds are very small. Seed may be sown with seeder in early spring at rate of 3–4 kg/ha. In Sri Lanka, seed is broadcast, or, as a pure crop, drilled in rows 22 cm apart. Seeds germinate quickly, first leaves being visible within 48 hours after sowing. Plants are thinned to stand ca 10–50 cm apart in row. In Sri Lanka often intercropped with kurakkan (Eleusine coracana).


Flowers about 45 days after sowing, and is ready to harvest in another 6–7 weeks. In the United States, planting, harvesting and threshing are mechanized. Crop is cut green in August (mainly by combine in Montana), and allowed to ripen. To avoid shattering, pods are harvested when still closed but mature, preferably early in the day. Sometimes plants are cut and dried on the threshing floor prior to threshing by beating with wooden flails.

Yields and Economics

Pure crop of mustard under good cultural practice and mechanized harvesting in the United States yields up to 1,100 kg seed/ha, compared to 400 kg/ha in Sri Lanka. Recently Danish mustard seed brought $0.20 kg; Montana seed, $0.21 kg; Oriental seed, $0.18 kg. Mustard seed is cultivated mainly in Europe, Russia, Syria, India, China, North Africa, Chile, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Mustard seed is available in markets from cultivated strains and from imports.


After only 30 days, 720–970 kg DM are available from poor soils in India, of which 137–176 kg are extractable protein. At 40 days, 1,450–1,610 kg DM with 226–283 kg extractable protein, at 52 days, 1,680–2,230 kg DM with 215–329 kg extractable protein (Matai et al., 1973). In a suitable cool but frost free climate, such yields might possibly be repeated every 45 days or so with annual yields closer to 2,400 extractable protein from 12–18 MT/ha.

Biotic Factors

Black Mustard is insect-pollinated. Bees collect the copious mustard nectar and produce a mild-flavored, light-colored honey. Mildews appear on the leaves causing malformation of flower heads and pods, a situation often controlled by sulfur-dusting or spraying with Bordeaux Mixture. Main insect pest is Mustard sawfly (Athalia lugens proxima), larvae of which feed on the leaves. Nematodes include Ditylenchus dipsaci, Heterodera crucifera, H. schachtii, Meloidogyne arenaria, M. hapla, Nacobbus aberrans, Xiphinema indicum, Pratylenchus penetrans, and P. pratensis (Golden, p.c., 1984).


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update Tuesday, December 30, 1997