AF CONTRIBUTOR |LETHBRIDGE
Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz took advantage of the centennial celebrations of the Scott Research Farm in mid-July to announce up to $4 million in funding for efforts to develop new uses and new markets for mustard.
The funds will be funnelled through Mustard 21, a nonprofit organization formed by the Canadian Mustard Association and the Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission (SMDC). Mustard 21 doesn’t do research, it sets priorities and finds researchers to find needed answers.
Alberta grows about 85,000 acres, mainly in the extreme south, but Saskatchewan grows four or five times as much. Alberta growers don’t have an organization similar to the SMDC.
The money will fund efforts to develop higher-yielding varieties as well as weed control options, particularly to identify herbicide- tolerant germplasm and more drought-tolerant types.
Almost all Canadian mustard is used as a condiment or as a binder in preserved meats. Mustard 21 is aiming for some less traditional uses. “We’re looking to create value for meal and oil to give farmers a better return per tonne of seed,” says Peter Desai, president of Mustard 21. “Nobody’s crushing mustard for oil now, but it has great potential as a dedicated industrial oil.”
An Ethiopian mustard, Brassica carinata, may be particularly well suited to specialized lubricant uses, as a biodegradable diesel additive, for example. B. carinata is particularly drought tolerant, but brown, oriental and yellow mustard types also have potential as industrial oils.
“We need to develop a dependable oil stream so we can offer industrial markets assured oil supplies,” says Desai. To develop that assured oil stream, Mustard 21 is working on better agronomics to boost production.
Mustard meal has even greater potential than the oil. The hot taste is due to glucosinolates in the meal, which can be removed, leaving deheated meal, the material used as a binder in some processed meats. The meal has high levels of mucilage, which absorbs fat and moisture and can be used as a binder and to provide the right texture for a variety of processed foods. As demand for gluten-free foods continues to increase, deheated mustard meal could replace wheat in a wide variety of processed foods.
The glucosinolates in mustard meal give it an antimicrobial effect that can be used in various situations as a food-based, biodegradable microbicide. Desai sees huge potential in using this trait as part of the packaging process for perishable foods. A package of meal included with packaged salad greens could delay microbial growth and extend their shelf life. A small package of meal in a bag of salad may seem insignificant, but extending the technology to all the fruit and vegetables shipped around North America would require a huge volume of mustard meal.
Mustard meal can also be used to control insects and pathogens in soil for high-value crops such as strawberries and turfgrass. Organic growers have been advised to grow mustard as a cover crop to control soil pathogens, but meal is easier to apply and may be more effective.
Mustard 21 is not aiming to develop proprietary technology or to patent any processes. It will develop some technologies or work with companies to find the best way to achieve the mustard product they need. In some cases, they’ll simply provide information on processes and recipes. “We aim to create more uses so that we can increase the value of the entire crop and create jobs and wealth in Canada,” says Desai.
A Saskatoon company, MPT (Mustard Products and Technologies Inc.), has registered a fertilizer based on mustard meal. It’s aimed at the consumer market for turfgrass, ornamentals and garden fruit and vegetables. “It’s an excellent soil amendment and it’s designed to encourage nutrient uptake,” says Jay Robinson, CEO of MPT. “It improves turf quality. The colour, root density and other signs of turf quality are much better with our fertilizer. It improves the microfauna in the soil, making a better environment for healthy plants.”