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Carinata: An Oilseed Ready for Lift-off

When most people in the Prairies look at fields of yellow, they immediately think of canola. But there are other yellow-flowered plants vying for attention. Ethiopian mustard (carinata), condiment mustard, and camelina are all contenders.

Most people aren't familiar with carinata, but it holds strong potential for prairie farmers. It can grow on marginal lands and be used as a rotational crop with wheat and other cereal crops and, because of its high oil content, it's a promising alternative to petroleum based lubricants and biofuels. In 2012, the National Research Council conducted the first-ever aviation tests of a biofuel made from pure carinata oil, with promising results.

Carinata Developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Currently, there are two commercial varieties of carinata in Canada, both of which were developed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). Dr. Kevin Falk initiated the carinata breeding program in the mid-1990s.

"We wanted to broaden the scope of field crops farmers could work with," says Dr. Falk. "Everyone saw the success we had with canola, and we wanted to see what other potential existed in the brassica family."

Specifically, Dr. Falk looked into carinata because AAFC had a collection of Ethiopian landraces and varieties available to them through a graduate student studying at AAFC. The graduate student was interested in improving the quality of the crop for Ethiopia while AAFC was interested in the potential of a new species for production in western Canada.

Since much of their carinata source material had relatively high levels of erucic acid (a long chain fatty acid), the opportunity to create a crop for industrial uses was perfect. Breeding varieties with high erucic acid content has the potential to create another new market for producers, through industrial applications such as lubricants, fuels and as a feedstock for bio-plastics.

Dr. Falk bred two successful varieties: AAC A100 (2012) and AAC A110 (2013) which were licensed to Mustard 21, a non-profit corporation created by the Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission to advance market opportunities.

AAFC continues to support Mustard 21, most recently with an investment of almost $5 million under Growing Forward 2 to develop new and higher yielding varieties of condiment mustard as well as industrial mustard for use in the emerging biofuel sector.

Mustard and Canola-Like Properties

One of the reasons why producers might like this crop so much is that carinata is well adapted to heat and drought, making it an option for those in Southwest Saskatchewan and southern Alberta, where canola does not perform as well. As a bonus, the crop is generally similar to canola and mustard, so for the most part the established fertility, weed and pest control options, as well as harvest management practices can be applied to carinata.

Description of this image follows
Staff at the AAFC Scott Research Farm inspect a carinata plot
in 2010, two years before the first commercial variety was released.

Carinata yield is similar to the older open-pollinated canolas, but its thousand-kernel weight is higher than canola. Carinata is also immune to blackleg and tolerant to alternaria and has good resistance to lodging and pod shattering.

Researchers at the Scott Research Farm are working on specific herbicide packages and agronomic recommendations for the crop.

With a bright future on the horizon, expect to see more yellow fields in the future.

For more information, or to set up an interview:

Media Relations
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Ottawa, Ontario

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