There s a new mustard in town.
Things have been tough for mustard lately, says Kevin Hursh, executive director of the Saskatchewan Mustard Commission. There s not great weed control (for the crop), and yields have not kept up with canola. Add to that the relatively small market for mustard as a condiment (people will only eat so many hot dogs), and there hasn t been a lot of room for mustard acres to expand. As Hursh says, producers grow what they can make the best dollar with.
So what if we could use mustard for something else?
That s the question that s driven new investment by the Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission (SMDC) and Mustard21 Canada Inc., a nonprofit corporation formed by the SMDC and the Canadian Mustard Association, with the goal of growing a value-added mustard industry in Canada.
The investment seems to have paid off. In the 2011 growing season, Agrisoma Biosciences Inc., the commercial partner for Mustard21, tested an Ethiopian mustard,Brassica carinata,in 20 sites across North America.
Unlike traditional mustards, carinata is an industrial oilseed with at least 40 per cent erucic acid. This industrial oil content opens the door to new non-food markets.
The most exciting of these potential new markets is carinata s potential as a biojet fuel. Military and commercial jets are beginning to incorporate biojet fuel. Carinata oil, as well as oil from camelina, which is also grown here, has the technical properties that make it a good fit for this market. In fact, Ag West Bio recently announced that it will lead a study to evaluate the feasibility of processing and refining bio-jet fuels in Saskatchewan. The study will look at the logistics and economics of all of the segments of the supply chain that would be needed to grow, process and sell bio-jet fuel on the prairies.
Patrick Crampton, Agrisoma s Vice President of Business and Product Development is a member of the steering committee leading the Ag West Bio study. He says that even though jets and agriculture don t meet too often except for spraying time, carinata could give farmers a chance to get even more involved in energy production.
As for the carinata meal, it may have uses in certain plastics, and, due to its low fibre content, researchers are testing its potential as a fish feed in Eastern Canadian aquaculture facilities.
Farmers hoping to seed carinata in 2012 will be able to do so under contract with Agrisoma, however, they ll have to wait for more detailed agronomic information and contract details. According to Patrick Crampton, Agrisoma is still evaluating the results of the 2011 crop, and will have complete information available in time for the Crop Production Show in January, 2012.
While Agrisoma is not yet sure how much carinata they ll be able to contract next spring, they do expect it to be in the thousands of acres. At this point, Crampton says, availability of seed is the largest determinant. Agrisoma has already decided which of the seven varieties they tested this summer will be commercially available next spring. Now, they will spend the winter increasing seed supply by growing a crop in South America. By January, Crampton says, we ll have a pretty good idea of how seed production is going down in Chile.
Carinata yields higher than traditional mustard and is very heat and drought tolerant. Crampton says carinata thrives in hotter and dryer conditions. When asked if carinata might compete for acres with canola, Crampton replies we ll see it grow in places where canola isn t even recommended. The whole intent of the project is to expand mustard acres.
Kevin Hursh isn t concerned about carinata replacing traditional mustard either. He believes this new type will be relatively easy to use for genetic engineering, much like canola, which would raise several new possibilities for mustard growers.
Another advantage that carinata brings to the table is more options for weed control. Patrick Crampton is excited about the possibilities. Herbicides that maybe don t work on yellow mustard do work on carinata. Carinata tolerates Lontrel, and we re moving forward with a minor use submission.
He also says that carinata has the same branching growth habit as canola, giving it an ability to fill more space and grow a more robust stand than normal mustard.
Crampton says The challenge of mustard is that there s a set global market. Having another market will let growers expand acres without causing prices to fall.
Researchers work on several new crops every year. Not all of them can make it, but sooner or later, someone is going to start growing the next canola. It s a long trip from the Ethiopian highlands to a jet engine, but carinata is taking the first steps of the journey. It s a great story, says Crampton. It s still early days.
Tips for growingcarinata
Growing carinata, or Ethopian mustard, is similar to growing mustard and canola with some differences:
” yields 20% higher than check crop (Cutlass)
” mid to long season maturity (seven days later than Argentine canola)
” thrives in the brown soil zone
” seeded at 10 to 15 pounds per acre
” aim for 16 plants / square foot
” seed size is approximately equivalent to largest hybrid canola seed
” yellow seeded crop, with lower fibre content
” can be straight cut at harvest time
” nitrogen and phosphorus requirements similar to canola
” excellent blackleg resistance
” good to excellent lodging resistance
” resistance to aphids and flea beetles
” may still need a seed treatment for flea beetles
” tolerant to Lontrel (Agrisoma is moving forward with minor use submission)