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[This summary has been extracted, with permission, from a report by the USDA Risk Management Agency, Risk and Evaluation Divisions; the full report is available on: http://www.act.fcic.usda.gov/research/feasible.html
To contact the agency:
United States Department of Agriculture
Risk Management Agency/Risk Management Education
Room 6755, Stop Code 0803
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250-0803
Crambe is a cool-season oilseed that grows best in semi-arid regions with warm days, cool nights, and low humidity. The crop is grown for its oil, which contains high amounts of erucic acid, a 22-carbon fatty acid. Erucic acid is used to make intermediate chemicals, such as slip agents, emollients, and surfactants, that are used as inputs in the manufacture of such items as plastic bags, cosmetics, personal care products, and laundry detergents.
Industrial rapeseed is the traditional source of erucic acid for the world market. In the United States, crambe has begun to tap into this market. Industrial rapeseed and crambe are the only commercial sources of erucic acid.
A few attempts at commercial crambe production have occurred since the plant was first introduced into the United States in 1940. However, the most sustained commercial effort began in 1990 in North Dakota with a partnership among the High Erucic Acid Development Effort, a government-sponsored research consortium; National Sun Industries, an oilseed crushing firm specialising in sunflowers; and several North Dakota farmers. Approximately 2,200 acres of crambe were harvested in 1990. Production peaked in 1994 at 59.2 million pounds. No commercial acreage was planted in 1995, primarily because much of the crambe oil produced in 1994 had not been sold prior to spring planting. About 19,600 acres of crambe were harvested in 1996. Production totalled 29.8 million pounds, with an average yield of 1,520 pounds per acre.
Neither the Census of Agriculture or USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service collect data on crambe acreage or production. Estimates are available from the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension Service and the American Renewable Oil Association (AROA), a crambe growers Organization formed in 1993. In 1996, AROA set up a separate steering committee and business to develop a production, processing, and marketing infrastructure for novel oilseeds in the Northern Great Plains. The grower-owned company, AgGrow Oils, plans to offer stock to growers in December 1996, construct a 150- to 250-ton-per-day crushing facility in 1997, and begin operation with the 1997 crop. Negotiations are underway that include contracting for 30,000 to 60,000 acres of crambe annually.
Industrial rapeseed oil is the traditional and dominant source of erucic acid in world and U.S. markets. World consumption of high-erucic-acid oils for industrial applications is estimated at about 125 million pounds per year. Industry sources estimate the U.S. supply of industrial rapeseed oil at about 5 million pounds of domestic production and around 25 to 30 million pounds shipped in from Canada and Europe. Although no data are available from industry sources or USDA on U.S. crambe-oil production, crambe oil reportedly gained acceptance in the U.S. high-erucic-acid market in the early 1990's when Humko Chemical, a division of Witco Corporation, began relying on it as a domestic source of erucic acid. Humko currently uses both industrial rapeseed and crambe oils.
World supplies of high-erucic acid oils have declined in the last few years as many countries have switched from older rapeseed varieties to canola types. World supplies are expected to remain tight. Although Canadian production is fairly stable, European production is below expectations again in 1996. Prices for erucic-acid oils have increased as supplies have tightened.
The meal left over after crambe seed is crushed and the oil extracted is used for livestock feed. Crambe meal was approved as a feed additive by the Food and Drug Administration on June 5, 1981, with the proviso that it be fed only to feedlot cattle and at a level not to exceed 4.2 percent of the diet. The meal has been accepted commercially by feed companies for feedlot cattle because of its attractive price and satisfactory animal performance. The meal sells at roughly half the price of sunflower seed meal and one-third the price of soybean meal
Stand establishment and harvest are critical times for crambe production. Stand establishment is tricky with crambe because of its small seed. Farmers have to learn how to select fields, prepare the soil, and plant the seed to get the crop established. Timely harvest is important to avoid high shattering losses. Ill-timed or incorrect harvesting could cause major shattering losses, as could high winds just prior to harvest.
Production perils occur throughout the growing season. Early season weeds may affect stand establishment. Prior to harvest, yields can be reduced due to late-season weeds or high winds. Another peril that can affect yield is excessive moisture, which promotes diseases.
Ad hoc disaster payments follow the trend of crambe production. During 1990-94, payments increased as acreage expanded. Sixty-five percent of the payments occurred in 1993, when North Dakota experienced significant yield losses due to disease infestations and commercial production was attempted in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska. North Dakota accounted for 88 percent of the $193,496 paid for crambe yield losses during 1990-94. Farmers in the high-acreage counties of Barnes, Benson, Cass, and Wells received between $17,000 and $35,000 in total payments, while farmers in the other 17 North Dakota counties received less than $10,000 per county.
Farmer inquiries about the availability of crambe insurance have roughly paralleled acreage. Interest was higher in the early 1990's when acreage was up, but in the last few years, with acreage down, interest has been lower. Demand will probably increase again in the next few years if planned acreage increases occur. Crambe is grown under contract, so the contract price could be used as a basis for setting reference prices. Individual yield data could be calculated from individual acreage data and warehouse receipts, which are available from agronomist John Gardner, who is working with AgGrow Oils while on leave from the NDSU Extension Service.
Any claims made by authors in the Australian New Crops Newsletter are presented by the Editors in good faith. Readers would be wise to critically examine the circumstances associated with any claims to determine the applicability of such claims to their specific set of circumstances. This material can be reproduced, with the provision that the source and the author (or editors, if applicable) are acknowledged and the use is for information or educational purposes. Contact with the original author is probably wise since the material may require updating or amendment if used in other publications. Material sourced from the Australian New Crops Newsletter cannot be used out of context or for commercial purposes not related to its original purpose in the newsletter
Contact: Dr Rob Fletcher, School of Land and Food, The University of Queensland Gatton College, 4345; Telephone: 07 5460 1311 or 07 5460 1301; Facsimile: 07 5460 1112; International facsimile: 61 7 5460 1112; Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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originally created by:GK; latest update 17 October 2001 by: RF