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Yellow-seeded canola would benefit entire industry

Greater value in oil and meal.


November 15, 2007
By Donna Fleury

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Changing the colour of canola seed from black to yellow is more than just window
dressing. It could lead to a pot of gold for Canadian growers and the entire
canola industry.

Researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada have developed yellow-seeded
lines of Brassica napus canola that could convert the seed colour of the entire
Canadian canola crop from black to yellow. Brassica rapa or Polish canola, which
makes up about five percent of the acreage, is already yellow-seeded, as is
B. juncea, the newest type of canola bred to be reliably grown in the drier
areas of the prairies.

"Although growing all yellow-seeded canola could give Canada a marketing
edge from a Canada-brand perspective, there are other benefits for the industry,"
explains Dr. Ashley O'Sullivan, president and CEO of Ag-West Bio. Previously,
O'Sullivan was director of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and was partly
involved in development of yellow-seeded canola. "The yellow-seeded canola
has a thinner seed coat than black-seeded varieties, resulting in lower meal
fibre content and increased meal protein content."

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The crude fibre content of meal from yellow seeds is about three to four percent
lower than that of meal from black seeds (about 12 percent crude fibre), thus
greatly improving the meal value for livestock feed and at the same time, seed
oil content is increased by two to three percent over that of black seed. "This
offers a double whammy in terms of value to the Canadian canola industry, with
added value on both sides of canola in the meal and the oil," says O'Sullivan.

In animal feeding experiments, results show superior animal feed performance
when they are fed meal from yellow as compared to black-seeded canola. This
improved nutritional value of meal from yellow seed results in greater weight
gains and increased metabolizable energy content.

Currently, canola meal is considered a byproduct of canola. Canola oil creates
80 percent of the total value of the seed, even though oil is only 40 percent
of the weight of the seed. Canola meal makes up 60 percent of the weight, and
is what is left after the oil is removed, but only contributes 20 percent of
the value.

In comparison to soybean meal, which is considered a premium, high protein
animal feed, canola meal only sells for 60 to 70 percent of the soybean meal
value. "With yellow-seeded canola, there is potential for much improved
quality of the meal as an animal protein feed compared to soy, and the meal
from yellow seeds should therefore fetch a better price than meal from black
seed," says Dr. Gerhard Rakow, research scientist with AAFC at the Saskatoon
Research Centre, who is leading AAFC's mandate to move the whole industry forward
with yellow seed.

Collaborate or die
AAFC has developed lines of canola in which the yellow seed trait is genetically
stable, and are now making them available to industry to incorporate into their
breeding programs. AAFC will be collaborating with commercial seed companies
to develop varieties rather than trying to develop them on their own. They continue
to work on traits such as yellow seed, disease resistance, insect resistance
and a whole range of things that they can hand off to the industry.

For the Canadian canola industry to truly benefit from the yellow seed trait,
the whole industry will need to make the shift. Therefore, Rakow and his team
have invited industry to work with them in developing commercial varieties.

"We have interest from commercial breeding companies who we will work
with to put the yellow seed trait into their material. Companies could then
offer yellow-seeded varieties to producers," says Rakow. But the breeding
will take some time.

"We've decided to work in collaboration with companies, rather than just
give the germplasm out for breeding because of the challenging nature of the
work involved in breeding yellow-seeded varieties," explains Rakow.

One of the biggest factors is grower demand for herbicide tolerance in new
canola varieties. "Companies are looking to develop hybrids with herbicide
tolerance and in order to do that with the yellow seed trait we need to put
that trait into both parents, which is a difficult undertaking. We've been working
on the yellow seed trait for some 20 years, it's not an easy thing to do. We
want to work with companies to help them build it into their programs and prevent
them from getting frustrated and just putting it back on the shelf." Rakow
believes that AAFC's role is to be persistent and not give up on something that
is very, very good.

Yellow-seeded canola will offer great opportunities for the industry. The yellow-seeded
lines tested so far in variety trials are equal to or better in yield and disease
resistance than the black-seeded check varieties, although they still are not
quite as good as the top industry hybrids in terms of yield. Rakow adds that
the real advantage to the Canadian canola industry will be a more secure market
for canola, and a greater demand for Canadian canola nationally and internationally
because of its better meal quality and higher oil content.

Rakow recently had an economic evaluation done on yellow versus black-seeded
canola in France under their conditions, and the Europeans are very much interested
in developing their own program. If Canada does not move forward on this opportunity,
countries in Europe likely will. If they come up with better quality material
and Canada does not, Canada will fall behind on the world market.

"The move to yellow-seeded canola is really about the future competitiveness
of canola production in Canada and offering leading edge production in Canada
for world markets. The research is about ensuring that Canadian producers can
profitably grow canola in the future and have a good market for it," explains
Rakow. -30-