Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

October 24, 2006 10:01 ET

AAFC: Tipsheet

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Oct. 24, 2006) -

Foliage trimmer cuts disease in carrots

Now carrot growers have a new tool to literally help cut diseases. The carrot foliage trimmer, a piece of equipment developed by research staff at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Harrington Farm, north of Charlottetown, P.E.I., removes a portion of the canopy of carrot tops between rows. Trimming is most effective around the time of row closure. Trimming opens up the canopy: it reduces humidity and increases air flow within the carrot canopy, which in turn removes the ideal conditions for diseases such as Sclerotinia Rot to develop. Each year, producers across Canada can potentially lose a substantial amount of their harvest to Sclerotinia Rot. The disease manifests itself in storage and renders the infected carrots useless. There are no known effective controls for this serious disease yet. However, by developing a mechanical device to help limit the disease, researchers have found a simple way to reduce pesticide use in carrot production. This prototype was constructed to be versatile and adaptable to conventional and organic growing systems across Canada. Funding for this project was made possible by the Pesticide Risk Reduction Program of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Pest Management Centre.

Naked nutrition: new flax de-hulling process

Flaxseeds are jam-packed with alpha-linoleic acid, or omega-3 fatty acid, that help to prevent cardio-vascular disease, lower cholesterol levels and may even reduce inflammation, which can lead to the growth of certain cancer cells. However, the flaxseed hull is on so tight that getting to the nutrition-filled kernel inside poses a real problem. An Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research scientist in Guelph, Ontario, has found a solution to free the precious inner seed by developing an award-winning commercial de-hulling process. This new process does not change the nutritional or functional quality of the seed nor harm the precious components of the flax kernel and hulls in any way. The de-hulling process has four basic steps. First, the flaxseeds are dried to reduce their moisture content. Then, the seeds are continuously fed into a separate chamber containing an abrasive rotator through which they flow at a rate sufficient for their hull to come off when the seeds come into contact with the rotator. After separating the hulls from the kernels, the hulls are then extracted to remove flaxseed gum and oil, which produces a high-gum fraction, a hull oil fraction, and a lignan-rich component of flaxseed. The major lignans in flaxseed is secoisolariciresinol, a phytoestrogen and antioxidant that studies show can reduce the risks of certain cancers. This technology is being used in a commercial seed de-hulling plant built in Winchester, Ontario, through an exclusive agreement with Natunola, an Ottawa-based company that supplies botanical ingredients to the cosmetic and health care industries.

Technology helps identify vigour in canola seed

Canadian students celebrated National Science and Technology week from October 13 to 22. In the world of agriculture, Canadians often think of crops growing in the field, but sometimes forget the high-tech research supporting the agricultural and agri-food industry. For example, knowledge of seed vigour, the ability of a seed to germinate and withstand environmental stresses, is of vital importance to growers. Advanced knowledge of vigour in a seed lot can help growers save time and money by not planting low-vigour seeds. Agriculture and Agri-Food scientists in Brandon, Manitoba, have developed and successfully verified two tests to measure seed vigour to help growers identify more productive seeds. One test is based on seed colour; the second is based on existing breathalyser technology to determine ethanol and other volatile emissions from canola seed. This technology was honoured by the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers as one of the top 10 new technologies of 2004. Research continues to refine the vigour assay tests and to examine its application to other crops.

The amazing properties of lupins: not just another pretty flower

Lupins are mostly known for their flowers, but they also have human food applications, specifically as a replacement for soy flour, and it now turns out they have pharmaceutical applications as well. The narrowed-leafed lupin is known to have blood cholesterol-lowering effects, and old varieties were used in traditional medicine as a de-worming and antiparasitic agent. An extract of lupin is used in some European countries as a hypoglycemic agent in the treatment of Type II diabetes. A team of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers in Summerland, British Columbia, has found that lupins contain a high concentration of phenolic compounds, especially flavonoids, which suggests they have potential as a value-added product in the field of nutraceuticals and functional foods. All but one of the species of lupin studied contained over 20 mg/g of phenolic compounds, which is more than what the team had previously found in bean cultivars studied for their phenolic content. Beans are known to have a high number of phenolic compounds. The studies also revealed that the smallest seeds produce the highest amount of antioxidant activity, which means that the extraction of the desired compounds from them would be more cost-effective. Like all legumes, lupins can fix nitrogen. However, they are better adapted to northern climates than soybeans or dry beans and therefore offer better opportunities for rotations with grain crops in zones with a shorter growing season.

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