Oilseed crops may prove a real tonic

18 July 1997

Oilseed crops may prove a real tonic

By Alan Barker

IF development work on a Yorkshire farm proves successful UK arable farmers could soon be helping patients with neurological problems and skin complaints.

The two novel oilseed crops unveiled at the annual Omex open day at Springdale Farm, Rudston, near Bridlington, are the biennial Lunaria annua (better known as honesty) and Echium plantagineum (an annual hedgerow plant known as purple vipers bugloss).

Host farmer, Clifford Spencer, and his wife, Janice, are working with Hull-based seed crusher Croda Universal to develop the two crops.

Their goal is to develop a successful agronomy package and method of harvesting to avoid seed loss in a crop which can show up to two weeks difference in maturity.

Crodas interest in honesty lies in several fatty acids in the seed oil and its development for industrial and pharmaceutical uses.

There is specific interest in nervonic acid, which is undergoing pre-clinical trials to assess its value in managing neurological diseases.

Mr Spencer, a specialist seed producer, is growing 20ha (50 acres) of honesty, drilled this spring. Harvest will not be until August next year, producing seed with a 30% oil content. Interest in Echium is based on the anti-inflammatory properties of stearidonic acid isolated from the seed oil. It could be used in skin care preparations and for treating eczema, psoriasis and sunburn.

The Spencers will concentrate on finding the best harvesting method come September. Desic-cation, swathing and direct combining will all be tried. &#42

Yorks farmer Clifford Spencer in his crop of Echium. Oils extracted from ther seed could aid skin care.

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