28 June 2002

Mustard and hemp under demo spotlight

INDUSTRIAL hemp and Abyssinian mustard are two new crops under the spotlight on the demonstration plots at this years event.

Featured in the Farming in the Future section of the show, experts will be on hand to provide technical and business advice about both crops and a host of other farming topics, says the Yorkshire Agricultural Societys technical advisor, Doug Thomson.

"Both crops are currently being offered on contract," says Mr Thomson. "Hemp has a wide variety of uses. The woody core is highly absorbent and makes ideal horse bedding. The fibre is also gaining popularity in the paper, automotive, construction and horticultural industries."

But Mr Thomson is quick to point out that inclusion in the demonstration area does not imply a YAS recommendation. "We choose crops purely to spark discussion. But hemp may turn out to be a useful break crop for this area. It is claimed to provide an excellent barrier to pests and diseases and its deep-rooting is said to benefit soil structure."

Potential growers must obtain a licence before sowing industrial hemp, he adds.

Abyssinian mustard is gaining a foothold in the plastics industry. "The crop is eligible for growth on set-aside and receives full payment. Its crushed for its oil which contains high levels of erucic acid used to prevent plastic film from sticking together," explains Mr Thomson. And unlike high erucic acid oilseed rape, the crops area is not limited and overproduction penalties cannot be imposed.

Research suggests that Abyssinian mustard is suited to a wide range of soil types. It is spring-sown and grows quickly, usually taking 100 days to reach maturity after planting. At harvest, the crop is normally dried at 9% moisture.