Camelina sativa, mustard get boost from Ottawa

The federal government is investing millions of dollars in two minor oilseed crops.

Late last week, federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz announced $3.7 million in funding for a new industrial oilseed that will be used to make lubricants, polymers and other products.

“This project will deliver superior, market-ready varieties of camelina sativa to growers across Canada,” said the minister.

He followed that up earlier this week with $4.9 million to develop new and higher yielding varieties of condiment mustard, as well as industrial mustard for the biofuel sector.

“This investment will improve mustard seed yield and quality, en-suring that Canada remains a leader in the mustard industry,” said Ritz in a media release.

Agriculture Canada researchers will be working with the mustard industry to develop crops with higher protein and mucilage content and improved disease resistance.

The goal of the industrial mustard breeding program is to produce crops with high oil and protein content that are early maturing and have improved disease resistance.

Research will also be conducted on fertilizer and weed management, rotational benefits and water use efficiency.

“Mustard 21 Canada is very pleased to have this renewed commitment to mustard research,” said Mustard 21 chair Baine Fritzler in the release.

“This will enable mustard producers and the mustard processing and handling system in Canada to maintain their position as world leaders in supplying mustard to national and international markets.”

Linnaeus Plant Sciences, the company managing the camelina breeding project, said the money will provide five more years of funding for the program.

“This will position us as a leader worldwide in developing this crop,” said Linnaeus president Jack Grushcow.

Camelina breeders will be attempting to boost yield, increase seed size, introduce herbicide tolerance, shorten the growing season and improve oil profiles of the crop.

The federal government has been providing financial assistance for the oilseed crop for a number of years.

“I found a partner in the nuthouse with the minister because he has been supporting this program since 2007. We’re very much appreciative,” said Grushcow.

Linnaeus has now received nearly $15 million in government funding to develop the crop. The money is starting to produce some tangible results. The company intends to contract 5,000 acres of camelina next spring.

Linnaeus is partnering with Chaplin Grain Corporation, an elevator in Chaplin, Sask., that will be dealing directly with growers.

Some Western Canadian farmers had a bad experience growing camelina under contract for a different company a few years ago. Great Plains — The Camelina Company, a firm headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, failed to fully honour contracts it signed with growers.

Farmers also complained that it was a difficult crop to produce due to its tiny seed size, tough straw and excess dockage.

Grushcow said Linnaeus is purposely contracting a small amount of the crop because the company doesn’t want to get ahead of itself.

“We want every grower to be successful and we want to make sure that we build the market in a stepwise fashion,” he said.

A crusher in Oregon will process the seed produced from the contracted acreage.

The oil will be used to make green lubricants and polymers, environmentally friendly alternatives to what are usually petroleum-derived products.

“Our goal, with the support from the minister, is to make products that sell for $3 a pound and not 30 cents a pound,” he said.

The meal has been approved as a livestock feed in the U.S. but not in Canada. Linnaeus recently completed its first broiler chicken feeding trial with the Feeds Innovation Institute at the University of Saskatchewan.

“The results are awesome. We’re actually producing omega meat in broilers,” said Grushcow.

He anticipates the meal will have Canadian approval by next year, at which time he will be approaching the federal agriculture minister once again to provide funding to build a crush facility adjacent to the Chaplin elevator.

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