Archive for March 24th, 2011

Linola: a potential oilseed crop

By Hafeez ur Rehman and Dr Shahzad M.A. Basra

THE indigenous oilseed crops contribute 26 per cent of the total oil consumed in the country. The rest is imported incurring a huge expenditure in foreign exchange. Low acreage under cultivation, poor yield potential, competition with major cash crops and high input requirements are some of the constraints in growing oilseed crops and achieving self-sufficiency in edible oil. The shortage of edible oil can be overcome by increasing yield potential of oilseed crops or by introducing new varieties. Linola is a new oilseed crop developed by converting linseed from an industrial quality drying oil in low demand into one of high quality edible oil suitable for widespread use in polyunsaturated products.

 

High linolenic acid (45-65 per cent) contents, usually an oxidatively unstable fatty acid makes it unsuitable for kitchen use. Newly introduced linola has increased high quality polyunsaturated oil rich in linoleic acid from 20 per cent to 60-70 per cent similar to sunflower, safflower and corn oil in composition making it a suitable edible oil.

It can be grown wherever flax and linseed varieties perform well, and also in other cereal growing areas. Due to its adequate moisture requirements, wind and frost tolerant characteristics, the crop had better adaptability to cooler environments than other polyunsaturated oilseed crops such as sunflower and maize.

 

Although linola is a comparatively new crop, its cultivation methods and agronomic requirements are not different from those of flax and linseed crop. Hence it is easily understood and is well known among growers. It can be easily grown on light textured well-drained, moderately fertile and humus rich soils.

 

Slow early crop growth and limited branching resulting in poor competition with weeds are some of the agronomic problems faced by this crop. To tackle with the problem, effective seed priming techniques are being used. However, weed control requires little attention at seedling establishment, but the crop usually smother out weeds in the later crop stages hence no chemical control is required.

 

As linola is not grown as cereal therefore it is not susceptible to cereal pests and diseases and is commonly grown as a break crop in a cereal rotation. However, pests and diseases need to be monitored closely. One of the advantages of growing linola is that it prepares the soil for successive crop by breaking up organic matter.

 

The crop has also high compatibility with cereals and can be planted without any competition and similar practices can be used for harvesting as for cereals and other small grains. Unlike canola or mustard species, one of its major advantages is that the crop does not lodge or shatter at maturity and can be left standing in the field for some time. After seed harvesting, the straw can be used in paper making industry which further adds to its benefits.

The crop produces light golden premium quality oil with excellent oxidative stability. The oil is used in small quantity in margarine and other cooking, salad and frying. Ground linola seed is used as component flour in baking for improving bread quality and shelf life.

 

Its seed contains mucilage which lowers blood cholesterol, and is also a rich source of lignans, a group of anti-carcinogenic compounds. Like linseed meal, its seed meal can be used in ruminant feeds. Nonetheless, linola seed is currently being evaluated in these markets.

 

Linola has high adaptability under our local climatic conditions and its preliminary testing and comparative assessment with linseed or other oilseeds are being evaluated by researchers at crop physiology department, university of Agriculture, Faisalabad.

There is a dire need to overcome the looming oil crisis in the country and saving precious foreign exchange by promoting such crops. The government should subsidise input rates and announce high support prices in order to bring more area under its cultivation.

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