Prospect of tighter standards gives extra urgency to minimising erucic acid levels in double low rapeseed

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With European legal standards for erucic acid in rapeseed oil for food products likely to be tightened from 5% to just 2% in the near future, OSR growers across the country must step-up their efforts to minimise the risk of contamination in their double low deliveries, warns the NFU. Especially so in the face of growing claims and rejections for breaching existing supply contract limits.

Speaking at a special Dekalb-sponsored OSR quality and weed management event, combinable crops adviser, Tori Morgan said: “The number of double low rapeseed deliveries with erucic acid levels over the current 2% contractual maximum is definitely increasing and, with it, claims and in some cases rejections.

“If permissible levels in rapeseed oil are reduced, as the European Commission intends, the prospect of greater and wider penalties is raised. So it’s important growers take action to safeguard themselves by identifying and dealing with all possible sources of contamination in their crop cycle.”

Such a whole cycle approach is essential as it has, so far, proved impossible to pinpoint the exact causes of most delivery failures. The main possibilities identified by the OSR supply chain include volunteers from previous HEAR or industrial rape crops; seed – both certified and farm-saved; admixture from a range of cruciferous weeds; and mix-ups or insufficient care in storage and transport.

“OSR seed can survive in the ground for 15-20 years, so it will pay to be sure that the fields on which you plan to grow your double low crops haven’t grown industrial rape for an extended period, or if they have, that a proper volunteer control programme is in place” advised Tori Morgan.

“Certified double low seed is required to have an erucic acid content of less than 2%. But to protect yourself you should get a copy of the certificate of analysis for each batch of seed you use. And, if you’re planning to use farm-saved seed, do get a representative sample tested for erucic acid before you do.

“Equally, with charlock seed typically containing nearly 32% erucic acid, wild radish around 27% and hedge mustard 21%, it’s vital you keep on top of these and other cruciferous weeds that could easily cause significant contamination.

“Good identification and separation of any HEAR and double low rapeseed at harvest and beyond is, of course, essential,” she added. “It would also be advisable to keep any rapeseed from fields you know to have significant off-types or cruciferous weed populations separate from your main harvest wherever possible until you’ve had it tested for erucic acid.”

Alongside these measures, Tori Morgan suggested that growers would be wise to retain rapeseed samples from each variety – by field if possible – and from each lorry load leaving the farm. This will allow independent laboratory testing should any issues be raised at the crush.

She urged anyone an encountering erucic acid problem to log it through the NFU’s Call First helpline, seek their advice and complete the specialist questionnaire they have designed to build the best possible picture of the issue nationally and pinpoint the real causes.

“Erucic acid is an important issue now and is set to become even more important within the coming year or so if, as we expect, legal food oil standards become even tighter,” concluded Tori Morgan. “It’s an issue we need to address as a matter of urgency.”


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About Author

Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is an avid follower of Stoke City.