Research seeks new uses for old grain varieties

Ancient grains, spices and plants that might be used to make jet fuel are some of the new research projects at the Melfort Research Farm.

The research is designed to show what these plants look like and how they grow in the central Saskatchewan region, crop specialist Kim Stonehouse said.

Stonehouse advised growers to get a contract before planting seed.

Here are a few projects underway at the research farm:

• Camelina could work for biofuel and is emerging as a possible new ingredient to use in jet fuel, but the only camelina processing facility is in the United States.

• Niger is an oilseed used in bird seed but weed control is a challenge as is determining the area of adaptation. Currently, niger must be sterilized in a facility approved by the U.S. government.

• High erucic acid rapeseed makes oils more useful in the production of lubricants. Plant breeders have worked to reduce the glucosinolates so that the meal can be used as a marketable livestock feed.

• Brassica carinata or Ethiopian mustard has good resistance to blackleg and white rust. It’s highly heat and drought tolerant and resists aphids and flea beetles. Its average oil content is six to eight percent lower than some of the canola species but it has high erucic acid content.

• An oilseed radish that has sparked interest in the biofuel industry has high levels of glucosinolate, which render it unsuitable for human consumption. There may be possibilities for the sprouted seeds that are high in antioxidants. Oil production is also being evaluated.

• Marko turnip, which contains about 20 percent protein in the leaves and eight percent protein in the tubers, may provide a forage alternative along with millet.

• Originating in the Mediterranean, fenugreek seeds are used for pharmaceuticals, food flavourings and health foods. Interest in fenugreek as a forage is increasing in Alberta because of its ability to maintain high protein levels throughout the growing season.

• The Prairie carnation or cow cockle produces fine starch granules of interest to the cosmetic and nutraceutical industries.

• Heat loving coriander germinates slowly and is best suited to well-drained loam to sandy loam soil;

• Cumin is a short annual. Its challenge has been disease.

• Caraway is most commonly grown in Saskatchewan as a biennial, producing flowers and seed in the second or third year. Caraway seeds and oils are used in herbal remedies for toothaches and digestive problems.

• Calendula oil contains about 60 percent calendulic acid, which is being formulated to replace turpentine in Europe.

• Buckwheat is marketed as a flour in

breads, pancakes and noodles and could also be useful as a green manure crop.

• Fababeans are used as an on farm protein supplement for livestock feed, but there could be smaller seeded varieties suited for human consumption in India. They are also a green manure candidate. Fababeans require plentiful water and cool, moist conditions for growth.

• Studies are underway on the potential for linen quality flax production in Saskatchewan.

• The research farm also has several ancient grains research projects, including Red Fife wheat, kamut and spelt. All three have been steadily growing in demand in recent years.

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