Growers given the good oil at Kojonup

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A group of grain growers have signalled interest in developing a consortium to accelerate the development of a hardy ancient Russian oilseed crop.

The relatively drought and frost tolerant crop, camelina, was introduced to growers at an AusOils field day in Kojonup on Friday.

The oilseed crop could prove to be a lifeline for farmers in marginal regions of the State, according to University of WA researchers.

Preliminary trials around WA have shown that camelina grows best on sandy soils. More drought and frost-tolerant than most other oilseed crops, it needs less fertiliser and other inputs than canola.

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Director of UWA’s International Centre for Plant Breeding Education and Research, William Erskine said camelina’s hardiness and applications to food, cosmetic, health and energy industries made it an attractive product for farmers and consumers.

“Not only is camelina a food oil, it can also be used in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals as it is a good emollient with excellent moisturising properties and possible medical applications, ” Prof. Erskine said.

“The gluten-free seed meal can be developed into a sought-after healthy food ingredient in a growing market.

“In the US, the oil is also being considered as a biofuel.

“While the oil not only looks good with a pleasant nutty flavour, it has high alpha linolenic acid (an Omega-3 fatty acid) content complemented and stabilised by natural antioxidants, such as vitamin E.”

He said scientists at UWA aimed to add further value to the crop through niche product development.

UWA has been undertaking genetic and agronomic work on camelina.

Kojonup grower Macushla Prasser-Jones and her husband David planted 20 hectares of camelina in June.

They are expecting to harvest the oilseed in the next fortnight and, because there is no pod shatter, they don’t have to swath.

Mrs Prasser-Jones read about the health benefits of the seed last year and approached Joe Young from AusOils for seed.

“It’s a low input crop, ” she said.

We did a pre-emergent spray, and didn’t need to do any sprays for weeds or pests and the aphids didn’t touch it.”

The Prasser-Joneses will sell the seed back to AusOils.

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