Two of the original RISS group of five organic growers, based mainly in north-east Scotland, began planting in spring last year following a research trip to Sweden, where around ten per cent of commercially-grown oilseed rape is organic. Since then, a number of other farmers have come on board.
They have been working with north-east feed processors Norvite, who are looking to source organic protein feed locally, rather than from as far away as China, as well as to produce organic cold pressed rapeseed oil.
The new funding comes from the Scottish Government's Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund (KTIF) and was awarded to researcher Dr Robin Walker of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), who will co-ordinate what is now called the Scottish Organic Canola (SCOCAN) project – comprising five organic farms, feed processors Norvite and agronomist Andy Cheetham of Ceres Agri Services - and organise demonstration events for the public.
Picture: Chris Gospel’s farm, Auchmacleddie near Strichen, Aberdeenshire
Dr Walker said: “The securing of the KTIF funding provides a great opportunity to help facilitate and maintain a good dialogue between the various farmers and advisors who have taken on growing this novel organic crop, as well as other parties along the production and marketing chain interested in making this innovative crop a success.”
Large plots of oilseed rape have been planted on five farms across the north-east of Scotland: one in Moray, three in Aberdeenshire and one in Angus.
Three of the farms will host demonstrations during the growing season to follow progress of the crops. The first event will be on January 23 at Chris Gospel’s farm, Auchmacleddie near Strichen, Aberdeenshire, with follow ups at Gordon Whiteford's Lower Mill of Tynett near Fochabers in May/June and at Murray Cooper's Mains of Thornton, near Oldmeldrum, in September.
The on-farm pilot studies also offer the opportunity to compare several aspects of agronomy, including varieties and management options that can be applied later in the season, such as spring fertility, or pest, disease or weed control, based on approaches allowed within organic management standards.
Edward Smith, Managing Director at Norvite and chair of the Scottish Organic Producers Association (SOPA), said: “There is no documented evidence of organic canola currently being grown in Scotland of any scale and virtually none in the rest of the UK, so introducing this crop to Scotland, even at a small to moderate scale is innovative.
“The SCOCAN project will link the whole supply chain from Scottish soils through to consumers, which includes both livestock and human use of the products, with potential to open up new regional and export markets. These include locally produced organic high protein cake for livestock, as well as oil, for example for specialist poultry rations, or for human consumption.”
The first free on-farm demonstration, facilitated by SRUC and Ceres Agri Services and hosted by Chris Gospel, will take place at Auchmacleddie, Strichen, Fraserburgh on Thursday 23 January (12.30pm-3.30pm).
For more information about the project, email firstname.lastname@example.org