Regulatory hangups slow growth of carinata

There are plenty of carinata research plots but no grower contracts this year in Western Canada, despite the hopes of crop developer Agrisoma Biosciences and crop marketer Paterson Grain.

The Ethiopian mustard, brassica carinata, has potential as a biofuel crop and is suited to the Prairies.

However, earlier plans to offer production contracts this year were scrapped when the federal government took longer than expected to approve carinata meal for cattle feed and the U.S. government didn’t approve the oil as part of its biofuel blending mandate.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues renewable identification numbers (RINs) to approved biofuels, but carinata doesn’t have them.

Ken Mudry of Paterson Grain said the two approvals from the two governments were needed to increase the value of the crop for growers and marketers.

“We’re over one hurdle and we’re working toward the approval with the EPA in the U.S. to get approved for RIN credits,” he said.

“We’re quite optimistic it will get approved before next spring.”

In the meantime, Mudry said Paterson is looking to contract carinata acres in Montana and Florida for next year.

“We’re trying to get our ducks in a row for Western Canada again.”

Jet fuel is the ultimate market for carinata oil, but until that increases, the oil will go into the biodiesel market, said Mudry.

“The challenge is to ensure that we scale up and that Agrisoma continues to look at enhancing the performance of the crop itself, enhancing yield, looking at the profile of the oil and the meal and all that good stuff.”

Daryl Males, breeding and agronomy director for Agrisoma, said his company has mustard research plots at 32 sites this year and progress is being made toward hybrid varieties that will hopefully bring the same advantages as hybrid canola brought to that crop.

“The diversity in all breeding programs in our mustard group is really tight and historically has been because Canada has been a quality, quality, quality market,” Males said.

“It was very limited genetically, and now we’ve made a real attempt to bring in diversity, both at Ag Canada and Agrisoma, in all classes of mustard.”

Research is made possible through funding from Saskatchewan mustard growers and the Canadian Mustard Association, which contributed money that has since been augmented by federal funding through Growing Forward 2.

Males said carinata has a longer season but is higher yielding than common mustard and does well under heat stress.

It has the same nutritional requirements as canola and yields 10 to 15 percent better under stressful conditions.

Males said the crop will take advantage of high moisture, is highly competitive against weeds and is resistant to shattering.

He acknowledged that farmers have been wooed before by biofuel crop possibilities, including camelina.

Carinata is different because biofuel produced from its oil has already passed tests in jet aircraft, and its developer, Agrisoma, has a strong marketing partner in Paterson Grain.

To get full advantage from the crop, Males said work is ongoing to reduce the glucosinolates in the seed so the meal can be used in pig, chicken and dairy rations as well as those for beef cattle.

As for price, Mudry said Paterson has a specific goal.

“Producers in Western Canada have told us that they would grow it if it was at parity to canola values, so that’s the thing that we’re targeting,” he said.

“Before we go to full scale contracting, we have to ensure that we can deliver that value to producers.”