With new higher-yielding carinata varieties on the market, farmers have another oilseed to add to their rotations
In the mid-19th century, Captain John Palliser described the region that now includes southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan as a desert or semi-desert, and deemed the area unsuitable for settlers.
Despite climatic limitations, farmers have settled Palliser’s Triangle, and they now have another hardy oilseed to add to their rotations — carinata, also known as Ethiopian mustard.
Dr. Kevin Falk describes carinata as a Palliser-type crop. Falk, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Saskatoon, has been working with carinata since the mid-’90s.
“The idea was to develop another oilseed or mustard for Western Canada to sort of broaden the scope that farmers had access to in field crops,” says Falk. “And it didn’t take long for us to realize that it was very drought and heat tolerant.”
Changing the profile
Researchers pushed the oil content from the low 30 per cent range to 44 per cent. They also wanted to change the oil profile. “We found by looking at the germplasm that we actually had a good number of lines that had very high erucic acid. So we decided that would be the route,” says Falk.
“And that sort of lays the stage for a number of industrial applications it can go in, whether they be fuel, bio-plastics, lubricants, and those sorts of things.”
Agrisoma Biosciences Inc. has been working with Agriculture Canada, and has commercially launched two carinata varieties — Resonance AAC A100 and AAC A110. According to the latest carinata production manual, available online at Agrisoma.com, both varieties yield 18 per cent over the checks, which were AC Vulcan and Cutlass oriental mustard.
Agrisoma rolled out AAC A110 this spring, and a media release states the newer variety yielded seven per cent more, on average, than the older carinata variety in performance trials.
Falk says the varieties are quite similar. But the glucosinolate content is a little bit lower in A110, which opens up doors for meal utilization, says Falk. “The glucosinolates are an anti-nutritive when it comes to feeding. And the lower those are, the better off we are.”
Researchers are already developing inbred lines, in preparation for developing hybrid varieties. They hope to be field testing hybrids in the next three years.
“The future seems bright. I think there are a lot of uses for it. It fits nicely with the canola world because we’re not moving into the areas that are typically used for canola production,” says Falk.
Growing and harvesting carinata
Carinata production isn’t restricted to the Palliser Triangle. It has been successfully grown as far east as the Maritimes.
But Falk says Saskatoon is probably the northern fringe of where carinata should be grown, as it needs plenty of heat to mature. Maturation grinds to a halt during extended cool, wet periods, though desiccants are an option.
Carinata generally matures within a week of Argentine canola. But with the heat that saturated Saskatchewan this summer, the carinata was two to three weeks ahead of where it typically is.
“It takes advantage of the heat,” Falk said.
Carinata seems to manage with wet feet, too. The Saskatoon research farm was drenched in rain over two or three weeks this June. Falk says they lost a lot of material from the various Brassica species, but the carinata fared better than most.
“We’re not quite sure why, but it seems to tolerate excess moisture and uses it,” says Falk.
Falk says carinata is grown much like Argentine canola. “Seeding depth, all those sorts of things, are exactly the same.”
Eric Johnson is currently working on a herbicide package at Agriculture Canada’s Scott Research Farm, Falk says.
Meanwhile, the production manual suggests considering pre-seed burn-offs and crop rotations to manage weeds. Controlling weeds in crops preceding carinata is also an important strategy. If stands are well-established, the oilseed should be able to contend with most weeds, the manual states.
Researchers are also working on clubroot resistance. Sclerotinia hasn’t been a serious problem for carinata so far, but the production manual recommends proper crop rotations to disrupt disease cycles. Carinata is immune to the blackleg races that are prevalent in Western Canada, Falk says.
“We do have issues with alternaria, but we can select against it. We have quite a bit of variation,” says Falk.
When it comes to harvest, farmers should wait until the entire plant has dried down, even if the seeds seem ready. Combining carinata with green stems will plug the combine, slow harvest, and suck up power, the production manual explains.
Carinata can be straight cut. “It doesn’t shell very easily. You need pretty much a gale force wind to knock this material over or for it to shell out,” Falk says. †