Research and Breeding
In this program we are developing superior seed for use as alternative crop rotations in the Pacific Northwest. Investigating breeding methodologies and inheritance of important traits to develop new and improved Brassica crop species. Also examining and developing procedures to increase breeding efficiency to developed superior Brassica oilseed and condiment cultivars. When dealing with an oilseed crop you also need to look at the byproducts which is the meal. We are developing cultivars with more specific chemical profiles to include the meal as a livestock feed. We are ultimately developing oilseed Brassica cultivars that would be suitable for industrial processing, including high quality biodiesel.
The use of rapeseed is the traditional name for the group of oilseed crops in the Brassicaceae family. Rapeseed (Brassica napus or Brassica rapa) can be divided into two types: Canola and industrial rapeseed. The two types are distinguished based on their individual chemical or fatty acid profiles, which is the fat molecule. Canola is the new name for the edible oil-crop that is characterized by low erucic acid (long chain fat found in plants of the mustard family) or L.E.A.R., with less than 2 percent erucic acid, and less than 30 micromoles glucosinolates (the “hot” in mustard seeds, when this compound is broken down with water it reacts and provides the heat felt on the tongue, characteristic in all Brassicaceae plants). Industrial rapeseed is high in erucic acid or H.E.A.R., with greater than 45% erucic acid, and high or low in glucosinolates. Low glucosinolates are preferred for traditional markets to allow the use of the meal as a livestock feed.
Brassica napus, is thought to exist primarily through a natural cross between close relatives, the parents, B. oleracea (cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli) and B. rapa (turnip rape, rapeseed, turnip), B. napus is self-pollinated. It is thought to possibly have existed as a wild escape in the overlap zones of European-Mediterranean areas where the parents originated.
We have developed nine varieties of B. napus, six spring forms and three winter forms specific to growing conditions in the Pacific Northwest, to view the variety release data please refer to the For Growers page under Varieties. We are developing, through greenhouse and field trials different varieties for use in different commercial and industrial settings. Some of these uses include cooking, food additives, lubrication, alternative fuel uses (Biodiesel, University of Idaho), motor oil additives.
The term “mustard”' is believed to be derived from the use of the seeds as condiment; the sweet “must” of old wine was mixed with crushed seeds to form a paste. It is among the oldest recorded spices, with Sanskrit records dating back to about 3000 B.C.
Within the condiment mustards all have high glucosinolate levels and the oil is neither canola nor industrial quality. There is yellow mustard (or white mustard), Sinapis alba and oriental mustard, Brassica juncea (yellow and brown seeded varieties) developed between the cross Brassica rapa (canola-cabbage, kohlrabi, etc.) and Brassica nigra (black mustard weed).
Sinapis alba — The center of origin is believed to be the eastern Mediterranean, and wild forms occur around most of the Mediterranean littoral, especially in the Aegean (eastern Mediterranean).
Brassica juncea — The center of origin is believed to be in central Asia-Himalayas, with migration to secondary centers in India, China and the Caucasus (mountainous region of south-central Russia).
Mustards have very appealing growing characteristics when compared to canola. Compared to canola they have much higher resistance to insect and disease damage, can grow in the drier areas within the Pacific Northwest and under normal conditions will yield higher. But, the oil quality is lower so value placed on mustard is low. Through interspecific and intergeneric hybridization using the ovary culture and embryo rescue techniques we have taken the desirable traits of this plant and hybridized it to canola to attempt to create a canola-quality oil with higher disease and insect resistance.
Any vegetable oil can be used as a fuel, known as biodiesel. You can use fresh pressed oils from seed harvested or you can reuse used fry oil (as in fast food restaurant type oils). There are a variety of reasons certain plant types are used as fuels. Brassicaceae oils are relatively low in saturated fats, have a lower pour or melting point and it has better cold flow properties than soy oils. They are also relatively low in polyunsaturated fats which equals to lower nitrous oxide emissions.
Currently biodiesel is relatively costly compared to petroleum diesel. To reduce the cost U of I is developing alternative uses of the canola and mustard seed byproducts. To produce biodiesel you press the seed to extract the oil, the high cost value product. The byproduct is an oil-free seed meal. Meal with low glucosinolate content is livestock feed, which has very low value. High glucosinolate meal from mustards has the potential for use as a bio-fumigant (replacing soil fumigants such as methyl bromide). Soil fumigants have a high value cost associate, which will reduce the price of bio-fuels.
The performance of many diesel engines has been tested with various forms of biodiesel. Examples include Cummins, Caterpillar, Navistar, Isuzu, John Deere, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen in various forms of biodiesel (U of I farm equipment and vehicles, combines, tractors, trucks, Bio-Bug — 2002 VW Beetle).