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Mustard plant.jpg
Scientific Classification
  • B. Alboglabra
  • B. Carinata
  • B. Chinemsis
  • B. Cretica
  • B. Elongata
  • B. Fruticulosa
  • B. Juncea
  • B. Napus
  • B. Narinosa
  • B. Nigra
  • B. Oleracea
  • B. Parachinensis
  • B. Pervirdis
  • B. Rapa
  • B. Rupestris
  • B. Ruvo
  • B. Septiceps
  • B. Sisymbrioides
  • B. Tournefortii[1]
Mustard field.jpg
Field of Mustard (Brassica napus).

Brassica is a taxonomic genus of plants that contains a number of important agricultural crops such as kales, cabbages, brussel sprouts, turnips, mustards, and many more. There are nineteen different species of brassicas, and some even contain varieties.[1]

Body Design

Like all dicots they have netted venation in their leaves instead of parallel venation which is found in monocots. Brassicas have a tap root, which is where some of the crops in brassica come from. Their stems are not hollow inside, and their vascular bundles are in a ring instead of being scattered like in monocots. In a taproot system, there is one primary root and a few little secondary roots. At the tip of the root is a root cap that allows the roots to push through soil without killing tissue in the roots. Mustards have dicot leaves. The blade of the dicot leaf is the flat part of the leaf. The petiole is the connector between the stem and the leaf. The two types of netted venation are pinnate and palmate venation. Pinnate venation is when there is one central vein and several other smaller veins that branch off from it. Palmate venation is when there are two or more central veins that break off from a certain point in the leaf. The mustard leaf has an epidermis which protects the leaves from other factors that could harm the leaf. On the bottom of the leaf, there are small openings called stomata. These openings are what allow the plant to exchange gases with the atmosphere. At the opening of each stoma are guard cells that open and close the stomata. [2]

Brassica species have a shoot system, which consists of the flowers, leaves, and stems. The flowers help in the reproduction of the plant because the flowers attract insects that will pollinate other flowers. The leaves help in making food for the plant. The leaves undergo photosynthesis, which changes sunlight into sugar for the plant. The stems help support the plant, and also transport water and minerals to the other parts of the plants. The roots are the underground portion of the plant. The roots do several things for the mustard plant. The roots anchor the plant to the ground so that it does not easily fall over or come out of the ground. Roots also gather water and minerals from the surrounding soil, which is very beneficial for the plant. Root hairs on the roots stretch out even farther from the roots to gather more water and minerals for the plant. [3]

Life Cycle

Like all other plants, life starts in a seed. Brassica species are dicot which means that they have two cotyledons instead of one like monocots. Cotyledons supply food for the plants in the seed. [4] As the plant matures, it flowers. Mustard plants have small yellow flowers in clusters. The flowers attract pollinators. Insects, such as bees, rub against the male part of the plant, the anthers, which hold the pollen. The pollen sticks to the bees, and when the bees land on another plant, the pollen rubs off, pollinating another plant. The pollen rubs off on the female part of the plant called the stigma. The seeds begin to develop once the plants has been pollinated. After fertilization, the flowers on the plant fall off. Also, the seed pods open, and the seeds will eventually make new plants. After all this occurs the plant dies. [5]

In more specific terms, germination is when the brassica seed comes out of its resting period and is ready to sprout. Certain factors in the environment initiate the growing of the young brassica seed. Environment and genetics play a huge role in determining the growth of the brassica plant. Flowering is the beginning of reproduction in brassica plants, and the plant makes flowers that will ultimately attract pollinators to the plant. Pollination occurs when insects bring pollen from one plant to the next, and transfer the pollen onto the stigma of the other plant. Fertilization starts the growth of fruit in the new seed created from reproduction.[6]


Brassica crops are pest repellent because they release a chemical into the air that repels insects. They also are good for weed control because they prevent their growth. Mustards help keep soil moist as well as preventing soil erosion if they are anchored well by their roots.[7]


Turnips (Brassica rapa) being sold in a marketplace.

Turnips are one of the biggest Brassica crops grown for food. The turnip is also very versatile. Some parts of the turnip were once used in medications for various purposes. Turnips grow best in a cool weather climate, out of the blistering heat. Turnips are resistant to frost and mild freezes that might occur. They are most commonly grown in the spring or fall in the United States, before or after the summer heat. One upside to growing turnips is that they have a very fast growing season, and the roots can be harvested between 45-80 days of growing. Turnips can be bought all year long at stores, which is also very beneficial. The root of the turnip plant as well as the leaves can be eaten of the plant. This is good because not a lot of the plant goes to waste. [8] Turnips have been grown and eaten for ages. Turnips not only feed humans, but also can feed some livestock. Turnips are biennial. [9]


Kale is very beneficial to the vegetable world as well as to the food world. Kale is very nutritious, and helps fight sicknesses such as cancer and heart disease. Kale is full of vitamins and minerals, especially fiber. Kale has antioxidants which is very beneficial to the human body.[10]


The head of a broccoli plant (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis).

Broccoli is grown in the spring, so the plant can develop before the summer heat. Broccoli has many nutrients and can also fight sicknesses like cancer just like kale. Broccoli grows best when it is in full sunlight, but partial shade is fine for growing broccoli. Broccoli is ready to be harvested when the head of the broccoli is firm and tight. [11] Broccoli is now a very complex plant because of all the years that it has been farmed. When planting broccoli, do not fertilize right before the broccoli is planted. Instead, fertilize well before the broccoli is planted for better results. Keep the weeds away from the broccoli plants, and give the broccoli plants water if there is long periods of dryness.[12]

Field Mustard

Field of Mustard (Brassica napus).

Field mustards are biennial or annual herbs that are the ancestor of the turnip, rutabaga, and some kales. Field mustards grow the greatest in rich, loose, moist soil, and not a lot of sunshine. Field mustards sprout in the fall, and their leaves are very similar to those of radishes. The flower stalk of the field mustard is between one to six feet tall, and has bright yellow flowers. The flowers of the field mustard are one-half to three –fourths inches wide. The greens of the field mustard can be used in salads, and the seeds can be used for flavorings. The condiment mustard comes from the seeds of the cousin of the field mustard, the black mustard. Field mustards can either be seen as weeds by farmers whose fields are taken over by field mustards, or a wild vegetable.[13]

Forage brassicas

One of brassica's major ecological importances is that it feeds livestock. Forage brassicas are high quality, high yielding, fast growing crops that are particularly suitable for grazing by livestock. Both tops (stems plus leaves) and roots (bulbs) can be grazed and are very nutritious. All members of the brassica family - turnips, rape, kale, and swedes - produce forage of exceptionally high (often 85-95%) digestibility.[14]

Forage brassicas can extend the grazing season into the colder months of the year, and can reduce the amount of feed that must be purchased during the colder months. Before brassicas were used for feed, the farmers would have had to feed their animals in the barns. However, brassicas have reduced the amount of time that the animals have to be fed in the barns. Brassica is a good way to get rid of some of the stored feed that farmers would have to save for the colder months of the year. It does not replace it completely, but for a few months of the colder fall and winter months. [15]

Brassicas were chosen for the colder months instead of other plants. For one, brassicas keep their quality in the freezing temperatures, allowing livestock to eat them later in the year. In order to grow brassicas effectively, there must be good soil drainage. At first, the animals must be slowly introduced to brassicas in order to reduce the chance of the animals getting sick when first introduced to brassicas. The livestock must also have other food in their diet. They cannot just eat brassica and only brassica. The livestock need a little variety in their diet in order to reduce the chance of disease in the animals. Brassicas need to be in a crop rotation so that diseases do not grow in the plant, which limits the yield that the plants produce.[16]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Classification. "USDA". Web. May 6, 2012 (Accessed). Author Unknown.
  2. Porch, and Batdorf. Biology with Laboratory Exercises. South Carolina: Bob Jones University Press, 2005.343, 348-349, 352-353. Print.
  3. Williams, Sam. Brassica Structure. “eHow”. Web. May 9, 2012 (accessed).
  4. Porch, and Batdorf. Biology with Laboratory Exercises. South Carolina: Bob Jones University Press, 2005. 343. Print.
  5. Roberts, Lisa. Brassica Plant Life Cycle. “eHow”. Web. May 9, 2012 (accessed).
  6. Life Cycle. “Fast Plants”. Web. May 23, 2012 (accessed). Author Unknown.
  7. Williams, Sam. Brassica Structure. “eHow”. Web. May 9, 2012 (accessed).
  8. Duke, James A. Brassica rapa L. "Purdue University". Web. Tuesday, December 30, 1997 (Last Updated).
  9. Undersander,Kaminski, Oelke, Smith, Doll. Schulte, and E.S. Oplinger Turnip "Alternative Field Crops Manual" Web. Wednesday May 9, 2012 (Updated).
  10. Kale "How Stuff Works". Web. May 9, 2012 (accessed).
  11. How to Grow Broccoli "USA Gardener". Web. May 9, 2012 (accessed). Author Unknown.
  12. Brassica. "". Web. May 23, 2012 (accessed). Author Unknown.
  13. Jacobson, Arthur LeeField Mustard “Arthur Lee Jacobson”. Web. May 23, 2012 (accessed).
  14. Brassicas for Forage Ohio State University Extension - Department of Horticulture and Crop Science. Web. June 5, 2012 (accessed).
  15. Perkins, Dale. Brassicas in Livestock Production. Ecological Agriculture Projects. Web. May 23, 2012 (accessed).
  16. Undersander, Dan.Use of Brassica Crops in Grazing Systems. “University of Wisconsin-Extension Cooperative Extension”. Web. May 23, 2012 (accessed).