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Small, E. 1999. New crops for Canadian agriculture. p. 15–52. In: J. Janick (ed.), Perspectives on new crops and new uses. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA.

New Crops for Canadian Agriculture

Ernest Small

    1. Limiting Factors for Agriculture in Canada
    2. History of Dominant Crops in Canada
    3. Crop Specialization by Region
    4. Relative Importance of Types of Crops
    1. Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)
    2. Durum Wheat (Triticum turgidum L. = T. durum)
    3. Winter Wheat
    4. Spelt Wheat (Triticum spelta L.)
    5. Triticale (×Triticosecale Widdmark)
    6. Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.)
    7. Malting Barley
    8. Oats (Avena sativa L.)
    9. Maize (Zea mays L.)
    10. Canary Seed (Phalaris canariensis L.)
    11. Rye (Secale cereale L.)
    12. Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.)
    13. False Melic Grass [Schizachne purpurascens (Torr.) Swallen]
    14. Wild Rice (Zizania palustris L.)
    15. Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench)
    16. Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.)
    17. Amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus L. = A. leucocarpus S. Watson)
    1. Canola (Brassica napus L., B. rapa L.)
    2. Soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.]
    3. Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum L.)
    4. Mustard [Brassica juncea (L.) Czern. & Coss., Sinapis alba L.]
    5. Sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.)
    6. Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.)
    7. Other Oilseeds
    1. Common Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.)
    2. Adzuki Bean [Vigna angularis (Willd.) Ohwi & Ohashi]
    3. Mung Bean [Vigna radiata (L.) R. Wilczek]
    4. Pea (Pisum sativum L.)
    5. Lentil (Lens culinaris Medic.)
    6. Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.)
    7. Faba Bean (Vicia faba L.)
    8. Grass Pea (Lathyrus sativus L.)
    1. Sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench]
    2. Use of Native Grasses for Grassland Restoration and Maintenance
    1. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.)
    2. Cicer Milkvetch (Astragalus cicer L.)
    3. Crownvetch (Coronilla varia L.)
    4. Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum L.)
    5. Lupins (Lupinus species, especially white lupin, L. albus L.)
    1. Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.)
    2. Mushrooms
  10. FRUITS
  11. NUTS
    1. Pulp
    2. Straw-Based Particleboard
    3. Biodiesel
    4. Ethanol
    1. The Fishery
    2. Seaweeds

The designation "new crop" may be applied to virtually any useful plant that in some respect is new. The following categories of newness (which are not all mutually exclusive) are economically important in discussing new crops: (1) gathering new wild crops from nature; (2) cultivating an undomesticated plant not previously grown; (3) domesticating (changing genetically) an undomesticated plant; (4) breeding improved cultivars of domesticated plants; (5) growing crops in new areas; (6) growing crops for new uses; (7) growing crops with new management techniques; (8) selling crops in new markets.

Category 2 and (especially) category 3 represent "new crops" in the narrow sense perhaps most widely understood. Although all domesticated crops originally came from the wild, in recent times the domestication of wild plants relatively infrequently produces crops of notable economic significance. Based on 160 crops grown and/or imported in the US that had a value of at least $1 million, Prescott–Allen and Prescott–Allen (1986) found that only six crops with this value were domesticated since 1900, a rate of success of less than 7 per century. Almost all potentially important new crops for a political or agronomic region are cultivated elsewhere, and indeed the leading domesticated crops of Canada all originated in foreign lands. Crop diversification, especially involving new crops, is considered to be a fundamental area deserving support in Canada (Small, in 1999; note Fig. 1).

Figure 1.
Fig. 1. A vision of agriculture in Canada, conceptualizing crop diversification as one of four essential supporting pillars (Agriculture Canada 1989).

The following reviews what is significantly new (for any of the eight kinds of newness pointed out above) with respect to the major classes of crops in Canada, such as cereals, oilseeds, forages, vegetables, and fruits. These crop classes represent arenas of competition, and new crops generally can only compete within one of these arenas. As will be noted, some of these arenas thrive on the introduction of new entities, while others are like clubs that are very hostile to the entry of new members. Given the breadth of the topic, only a limited amount of detail and selected examples will be presented for the crop categories, and minor crops that either have had very limited success in Canada or show little potential will not be discussed or will be given only incidental mention. For those seeking additional information on new crop development in Canada, it should be noted that the following present a wealth of information on the World Wide Web: (1) the federal department of agriculture, i.e. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), Canada's primary plant breeding institution, which has research stations in all provinces; (2) the provincial agriculture or resource departments; and (3) a wide variety of farm-oriented organizations.


Agriculture is the most important of the industries dealing with the biological resources of Canada, exceeding the value of forestry, fishing, and trapping. Agriculture and the allied agri-food industry are respectively responsible for about 2 and 6% of the Gross National Product (GDP), and about 14% of Canada's employment. In 1996 (the year of the last comprehensive census) the agri-food industry of Canada was worth over $70 billion* (about 8.8% of Canada's GDP), of which 24% represented on-farm production, the remainder accounted for by allied food industries, commercial sales, and the food service industry. The equivalent of 70% of Canada's agricultural production, with a value of about $20 billion, was exported in 1996, while the value of imported agricultural and food products was about two-thirds of this. This overall trade surplus shows that Canadian agriculture is dependent on world markets, and suggests that new crops represent an important measure to address market fluctuations and declines. The most important commodities exported by Canada are grains and grain products (35% of total agri-food exports), red meat and live animals (20%), and oilseeds and oilseed products (13%). The US is Canada's most important trading partner, taking about half of Canada's agri-food exports. In return, about 60% of Canada's agri-food imports are from the US. Imports include fruits and nuts (19% of total agri-food imports), vegetables (10%), and red meats (8%). The relatively short growing season of Canada necessitates a wide variety of agricultural imports, most notably hot-region plantation crops such as coffee, tea and spices (10% of all imports).

Figure 2
Fig. 2. Distribution of cropland in Canada (blackened area).

Fig. 2 shows the distribution of farmland in Canada. More than 40% of Canada is forested; about half of this area is capable of producing timber, and about a quarter is currently managed for timber production. Adverse climate, soil, and other circumstances prevent profitable agriculture in most of the country. Although Canada has close to 10 million square kilometers, making it the world's second largest country, only 67.7 million ha (0.677 million square kilometers) are arable (Canadian Federation of Agriculture 1995; Reid 1995). By comparison, total land in farms in the US in 1997 was 392 million ha, about six times the area used for farming in Canada. (The value of US crops in this year was about 109 billion dollars, about 10 times the value of Canadian production.) The arable area of Canada, about 7% of the country, is equal to about three times the land area of Great Britain. However, it has been estimated that less than 5% of Canada's land is actually capable of producing crops, and most of this is already in production (Environment Bureau 1997a). Moreover, only half of this land capable of producing crops is prime agricultural land, and much of this has succumbed to urban development (Science Council 1991). Canada may already be approaching its upper limit of farmland development (Acton 1995). An additional 6% of Canada's land can be used for grazing (Environment Bureau 1997a).

Limiting Factors for Agriculture in Canada

Figure 3
Fig. 3. Principal soil zones of the Western Canadian prairies, Canada's most important agricultural region. These zones heavily influence which crops are advisedly cultivated.

All crops grown in Canada (with the exception of greenhouse and cultured mushroom crops) and all potentially new crops are strongly constrained by climate and soil factors (Fig. 3). Of course, length of season, distribution of temperature and precipitation, soil fertility, and physical aspects of land are universal determinants of what crops can be grown. Land use inventories that assess the suitability of land for agriculture, forestry, recreation, and wildlife have been in use for several decades (Statistics Canada 1986). For example, the soil regions of Western Canada differ in the capacity to grow crops. The brown soil in the semi-arid region of the Prairies varies considerably from year to year in crop yield depending on degree of drought, while dark brown soil is not as vulnerable to drought. The black soil retains moisture better than the brown soil, is rarely subject to drought, and produces higher yields. The gray soil zone has higher moisture levels, cooler temperatures, and a shorter growing season. Management practices in the different zones are necessary, since climatic conditions influence the susceptibility of crops to disease and pest infestation.

Ideally, knowledge of three factors can be used to produce an excellent identification of what crop should be grown where and when. First, an agricultural knowledge of the growth requirements of crops is necessary. Second, measures of the comparative extent to which local soil, climate, and pests and diseases match the needs of the crops. And third, predictions of markets for the crops, both domestic and foreign. In fact, such detailed budgets are issued by Canada's federal and provincial agriculture departments for various regions (Spak 1998b), and are helpful in making decisions as to what major crops should be planted, especially in the prairie regions described above, for which there are only a few major crops and detailed information is available. In theory, such elegant prediction could be done for every possible crop, so that everyone, everywhere would know exactly what crop to grow. Of course, this is a Utopian scenario, since such detailed knowledge is not available and is only acquired after fairly expensive studies. Nevertheless, it is well to keep in mind that knowledge of both old and new crops is a key to resolving the universal question of farmers, "What should I plant this year?" and indeed the NewCROP website ( of which this article is a contribution is perhaps the premier source of needed information.

Figure 4
Fig. 4. Areas of the principal cereals and oilseeds grown in Canada for which records are available for all of the comprehensive 10-yearly (1921–1951) and 5-yearly (1951–present) agricultural censuses (data from Statistics Canada 1997a).
Figure 5
Fig. 5. Progressive cumulative values of the 68 Canadian crops for which national farm gate value or farm receipt statistics are available (compiled from Statistics Canada 1996, 1998a,b).

History of Dominant Crops in Canada

Because cereals and oilseeds dominate Canadian agriculture, it is instructive to examine the historical importance of these during this century in Canada. As can be seen from Fig. 4, wheat, oats, barley, maize and flax have been major crops in Canada for at least the last 75 years, and while their relative importance has varied, all have remained prominent for many years. No other cereal has become important in Canada, but canola (rapeseed) and soybeans, discussed below, have been the leading Canadian oilseeds for just the last several decades.

Fig. 5 illustrates the progressive cumulative value of the 68 Canadian crops for which national statistics are compiled (these range from over 4 billion dollars for wheat to less than 2 million dollars for apricots). This shows that the increased value becomes progressively less as one adds crops to the economy, and superficially it suggests that new crops are not needed. This is an incorrect conclusion for the following reasons: (1) one cannot predict the future value of new crops, which are needed for many reasons; (2) the crops with the highest national incomes are not necessarily profitable; (3) some of the most important crops are not suitable for some regions; (4) farm gate values do not measure the very high value of on-farm use of many crops; (5) farm gate values do not measure the very high value-added aspect of many crops.

Crop Specialization by Region

For simplicity, five regions are discussed, as follows (west to east): British Columbia specializes on fruits (particularly apples) and vegetables, and also has strong livestock and dairy production. The prairie provinces are specialized in grain and oilseeed farms, particularly wheat, oats, barley, canola, rye, and flax. Most of Canada's grazing lands occur in the prairies, and there is a very large red meat industry, with Alberta alone producing half of Canada's beef. Ontario and Quebec are the best areas for maize, and there are strong livestock, dairy, and horticultural sectors. Ontario is the center of soybean cultivation, and there is substantial greenhouse and fruit cultivation. The Maritime (Atlantic) area is particularly suitable for forage crops and an associated livestock industry, as well as potato and fruits such as blueberry. Tables 1 and 2 and Fig. 6 provide summary data for Canada's most important crops, for the five regions, based on crop area and farm receipts.

Table 1. Area of crops grown in Canada in 1996 (based on comprehensive 5-yearly census; excludes Territories; data from Statistics Canada 1997b; in some cases sums for Canada are not additive because of method of data collection).


Area (ha)

British Columbia

Prairie provinces



Maritime provinces
























Maize (for grain)







Maize (for silage)





















Mixed grains







Canary seed















Canola (rapeseed)





















Mustard seed







Sunflower seed














Forages and Fodders

Alfalfa (including mixtures)







All other tame hay and fodder







Forage seed for seed















Other vegetables (excluding greenhouse)







Dry legumes

Dry field peas














Dry field bean







Fruits and Nuts

Tree fruits and nuts







Berries and grape















Sugar beet







Other field crops







Nursery products














Christmas trees







Total crop area







Table 2. Gross value of farm receipts in Canada for Canadian crops for 1997 (in thousands of Canadian dollars; based on Statistics Canada 1998a). (Note that gross farm receipts include transfer payments from governments for a few crops, and for such crops represent a slight over evaluation of farm gate value).


Value (Canadian $)

British Columbia

Prairie Provinces



Maritime Provinces






































Canary seed





























Mustard seed







Sunflower seed







Forages and Fodders (n.b.: mostly used on farm, and so farm receipts do not reflect large quantities grown)

Hay and clover







Forage, grass seed















Other vegetables







Dry legumes

Dry peas














Dry bean















Other tree fruits














Other berries & grapes








Floriculture & nursery














Forest products







Maple products







Sugar beet







Other crops







Total crop value







Total livestock







Relative Importance of Types of Crops

The relative percentage crop area categorized by type of crop (based on Table 1) is shown in Fig. 7. Grains occupy over 60% of Canada's farmland. The oilseeds have about 15% of Canada's farmland, but are a higher-value crop. Forages and fodders occupy about 18% and, along with the coarse grains (barley, oats, maize) and presscake from the oilseeds, contribute to the feeding of the very large livestock population. Vegetables and dry legumes (peas and beans) have only about 3% of the land, but represent very high value crops. In the following discussion of what is new in the crop groups, the length of the treatment is approximately proportional to the importance of the groups in Canada.

Figure 6Figure 7
Fig. 6. Relative percentage for crop area and farm receipts for the five regions of Canada discussed in text.Fig. 7. Relative percentage crop area occupied by the major types of crop in Canada.


Canada produces about 5% of the world's wheat, 9.9% of the world's barley, 14% of the world's oats, and 1.4% of the world's maize. Canadian grains are used for domestic food consumption, animal feeds and industrial uses, with about half of cereal production exported. The dominance of Canadian crops by the major cereals has been overwhelming throughout this century. As shown in Fig. 4, the total area seeded to wheat increased from 8.2 million ha to 30.7 million ha between 1921 and 1996. Of the 276,548 farms surveyed in the 1996 census, 94,000 (29.4%) grew wheat. The total area of barley increased almost six times to 5.2 million ha between 1921 and 1996; the total area of maize for grain increased more than 12 times to 1.1 million ha. By contrast, the area occupied by oats decreased by over 70% to 2.0 million ha (with an associated drop in the number of horses and ponies from 3.5 million to 444,000). These four cereals represent over 60% of the area currently devoted to crops in Canada, and over 44% of current total crop farm receipts. Most of Canada's maize is grown in Ontario and Quebec, while most wheat, barley and oats are grown in theprairie provinces (Tables 1, 2). Wheat, barley, and oats account for 65.5% of the crop area and 61% of the farm receipts of the prairie region, and canola accounts for another 12.2% of the crop area and 22.7% of the farm receipts. Such dependence on only four crops in the prairies is of particular concern, and not surprisingly it is this important region, which accounts for 62.6% of crop farm receipts of Canada, that one finds the greatest support in Canada for crop diversification. Indeed, in the last decade there has been a concerted effort among grain producers to diversify production to overcome market fluctuations, drought, early frost, and trade wars.

Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)

Wheat and rye are the only grains with the potential to make raised (leavened) breads because their gluten content gives strength and elasticity to bread dough; wheat by far is the most important crop for this purpose. Canada is the world's largest exporter of hard red spring wheat, well known for its excellent milling and baking qualities and for its suitability in blending with lower protein wheats. The typical Western Canadian growing season of short cool nights and long, sunny dry days is ideal for the production of consistent, high-protein wheat, and normally this type of wheat is priced at a premium to softer and lower-protein wheats. In 1903, William Saunders developed the 'Marquis' cultivar, which set a standard not surpassed until the 1980s by 'Neepawa' of 1987–88. Canadian breeding of superior hard red spring wheat has since been constant. 'AC Barrie', a new, hard red spring wheat was recently released and has proven to be very popular. The three Canadian prairie provinces are the chief wheat-producing provinces of Canada. Canada produces about 5% of the world's wheat, but because of its relatively small population, exports over 75% of its annual production, and accounts for about 20% of the world's wheat exports.

Although hard red spring wheat dominates Western Canada, there have been concerted attempts to breed other types of wheat cultivars, to meet the changing needs of world markets (Dietz et al. 1998). Only a small amount of the class known as "Western Canadian Soft White Spring" wheat is produced in Canada, in part because it requires irrigation in Western Canada. However, there is a very good market for soft wheats, which go into cookies, cakes, crackers, specialty breads, and noodles. The cultivar 'AC Reed' was released from AAFC at Lethbridge in 1994 in an attempt to expand into the soft spring wheat market. AAFC at Swift Current, Saskatchewan, is responsible for the breeding of several recent wheat cultivars of the "Canadian Prairie Spring class:" 'AC Crystal', a high-yielding semi-dwarf red wheat with intermediate protein, and stronger gluten than its predecessors, improving its milling qualities for bread-making (due for release in 1999); and 'AC Karma' and 'AC Vista', white wheats for the oriental-noodle market.

Figure 8
Fig. 8. Recent increasing cultivation of "specialty crops" (common bean, sunflower, canary seed, mustard, lentil, and pea) in response to decreasing wheat cultivation (above) in Canada.

For 1998–99, Canadian non-durum wheat area, mostly spring wheat, declined to 7.7 million ha, the smallest area since 1972 (Fig. 8). In response to wheat surpluses and associated trade problems, many western Canadian farmers have turned to alternative crops (popularly called "specialty crops"). Indeed, this has been the single most important stimulus to crop diversification in Canada, next to the trend of tobacco replacement (Loughton et al. 1991). Figure 8 shows that while wheat area was decreasing, strong compensating increases occurred in the cultivation of the chief specialty crops of the prairie provinces (common bean, sunflower, canary seed, mustard, lentil, and pea).

Durum Wheat (Triticum turgidum L. = T. durum)

Most types of common wheat can be used to produce bread and Asian-style noodles. For example, bread is produced in most countries from a blend of hard and soft wheats, and where high-protein hard wheat is unavailable, wheat gluten can be added. Durum wheat has an amber yellow endosperm (from which semolina is produced), unlike the white endosperm of common wheat, so that pasta from durum semolina is amber colored. The flavor and cooking qualities of durum pasta are superior, and durum wheat is preferred for the production of pasta products, such as spaghetti and macaroni, and for couscous, the staple food in North Africa. Durum is suited to a dry climate, with hot days and cool nights, and does well under dry conditions. About 8% of the world's wheat production is durum wheat. The leading producers of durum wheat are the European Union, Canada, and the US. Canada is the leading exporter (Lennox 1998). For 1998–99, Canadian durum wheat area rose to a record high 2.9 million ha. In North America, Western North Dakota and southern Saskatchewan are particularly suited to durum wheat, and it is also grown under irrigation in Arizona and the California deserts. Durum wheat, as a crop, compares to common wheat much as alternative and new crops do. It is a relatively high-value commodity with a more stable future in Canada than common wheat. Recently, new technology and consumer taste changes have altered the pasta market toward a stronger, less elastic gluten, particularly in Italy, the main manufacturer of pasta-making equipment, and the country with the most prodigious appetite for pasta. To meet this altered market, new Canadian durum cultivars with stronger gluten content are in the process of being registered for market testing (Anon. 1998b).

Winter Wheat

Winter wheat is the fourth largest crop in Ontario (behind soybean, maize, and tobacco). Ontario is the main producer of winter wheat in Canada, producing about 1 million tonnes annually, using cultivars (e.g. 'Augusta', 'Harus') that can survive the relatively mild winters. Soft white winter wheat is most commonly grown, and this is used for producing soft gluten flour for confectionery products such as cakes, cookies, breakfast cereals, and crackers. Ontario red spring wheat is used primarily for domestic feed, and to a lesser extent for domestic human consumption. Spring wheat is grown somewhat in eastern Ontario, using Western Canadian cultivars, but the quality has often been below the standards demanded by North American millers. In recent years, Ontario wheat growers have been shifting away from traditional soft white winter wheat into both soft red winter and hard red winter wheat cultivars. The shift into hard red wheat is due to the recent availability of new cultivars able to achieve the high protein levels required by the North American milling industry. Improved soft red winter wheat cultivars have also become recently available, and although soft white winter wheat is preferred for the production of breakfast cereals, cakes, and pastry flour, the soft white winter wheat that has traditionally been grown in Ontario suffered a severe fusarium outbreak in 1996, decreasing its popularity. For a review of the changing wheat situation in Ontario, see Lennox (1996) and McKinnon (1997a).

Spelt Wheat (Triticum spelta L.)

Spelt is an ancient wheat that has been a staple grain in Ethiopia for centuries. It has become a top-selling organic and health food, grown as a specialist crop, often for people with allergies, and for pasta. Although minor, spelt is increasingly cultivated in Canada, with 825 ha reported in the 1996 Census of Agriculture, mostly in Ontario. Several thousand ha are cultivated in the US.

Triticale (×Triticosecale Widdmark)

Triticale is the stabilized hybrid of wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale). Poland, Germany, China, and France account for nearly 90% of world triticale production. Globally, triticale is used primarily for livestock feed. In Mexico, which grows the crop, triticale is used mostly for whole-grain tricale breads and tortillas. In the US, triticale is harvested mostly for forage, but there is a small market for pancake mixes and crackers due to a savory, nutty flavor. Ethanol plants will pay a premium for triticale over barley since it has more starch and no hull, making alcohol production more efficient. Although wheat-rye hybrids date back to 1875, it was only in 1953 that the first North American triticale breeding program was initiated, at the University of Manitoba. Although improved cultivars have been bred, triticale has remained unimportant in Canada. However, triticale does well in regions where wheat performs poorly, notably on cold and infertile soils, extremely sandy soils, soils with high levels of boron, salty soils, acidic soils, manganese-deficient soils, and dry soils. Canada does not have large area of such soil types, but there are about 2 million ha of marginal, light mineral, low productivity land in Western Canada where triticale has the potential to displace or supplement traditional feed grain production. Winter triticale is a higher-yielding, earlier-maturing alternative to spring triticale for short season areas of the prairies. 'Pika' and 'Wintri' are the only cultivars found to be suitable for use in Western Canada. Canadian triticale is mostly used for feed and forage. Triticale production in Eastern Canada is growing, with most production in Saskatchewan, followed by Alberta and Manitoba. Forage triticale equals or outperforms barley, oats, rye, and mixed grain in areas of Western Canada, so that there is a reasonable probability that it will become more important. For a review of the triticale situation in Canada, see McKinnon (1996).

Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.)

Barley is basically a livestock feed, and is the major feed grain in Canada. Barley is well suited to the Canadian prairies, where most of this crop is grown, while other feed grains such as maize and sorghum are not. Barley is also a good rotation crop with wheat, tends to be higher yielding, matures earlier, and is more resistant to drought and salinity problems. It is also used in brewing beer (see below). Hulless barleys have hulls that are easily removed by threshing, as with wheat. Some hulless cultivars are produced in Canada (such as the two-rowed 'Condor', 'Phoenix', and 'CDC Dawn', and the six-rowed 'Tupper', 'Buck', and 'Falcon'), resulting in more digestible, higher-protein feed, especially for swine and poultry feeding. Pigs and chickens are monogastric (non-ruminant) animals, which are unable to digest the fibrous hull. Barley is useful for most classes of livestock, although poultry lack the enzyme to digest beta-glucans, a water-soluble fiber (this viscous polysaccharide is denatured by adding the enzyme beta-glucanase to the rations; beta-glucans from barley have been shown to reduce cholesterol in people). Although not as palatable as other cereals, some barley is consumed by humans. Barley kernels are polished to remove the inedible part of the grain. "Pearled" barley is highly polished barley; by contrast, "pot barley" is less polished, hence slightly larger than pearled barley. Pearled barley is used in breakfast cereals and infant foods. Hulless barley grains of course already lack much of the inedible portion. Various health advantages have been claimed for human consumption of barley, including benefits for regulating blood sugar levels in diabetics, and for lowering cholesterol and heart disease. A market is emerging for the fractionated components of barley kernels as pharmaceuticals (see Nutraceuticals). Because it is such a major Canadian crop (third-ranking in terms of farm receipts), breeding of Canadian cultivars is given high priority, and new cultivars are constantly emerging. For example, in Eastern Canada where there are frequent strong wind and rain storms and barley often lodges, recent cultivars (the six-rowed 'AC Alma' and the two-rowed 'AB162-9') have strong stems to keep the plants upright.

Malting Barley

About 10% of world barley production is malted, and the other 90% used as animal feed. Malting barley is simply high-quality barley with appropriate characteristics to produce good malt for making beer. Most barley cultivars can be used to make barley malt, but some are specifically bred for the purpose. Two-row malting barley represents the international industry standard outside North America and also in some South American markets. However, six-row barleys are also used. Most malting cultivars are in fact used for feed. About half of Canadian malting barley is two-row. In Canada, three-quarters of the area seeded to barley consists of malting cultivars, the other quarter being feed cultivars, which tend to have higher yields. Growing conditions in western Canada are usually cooler and drier than the US for producing superior six-row malting barley, and so the US has been Canada's major export market for this type of malting barley in recent years. The variable climate on the Prairies sometimes results in only a proportion of the malting barley crop meeting specific malting barley requirements, but as most of the crop is fed to livestock this generally does not compromise the supply for export. China is an increasing importer of Canadian 2-rowed malting barley. The creation of new two-row barley cultivars with improved malting and agronomic performance desired by the export market has been an important development in Canada in the last two decades. Hulless barley cultivars with higher energy content, discussed above, are not suitable for the malting barley process, so that hulled cultivars continue to be grown in Canada. A recent review of the malting barley situation in Canada is McKinnon (1997b).

Oats (Avena sativa L.)

Before 1910, the area seeded to oats often exceeded the area for wheat in Canada, in order to feed horses. Up until 1920, the area for oats was similar to wheat area in Canada, but from the early 1920s to the late 1970s, with the introduction of tractors and the replacement of horse power by machine power, the area seeded to oats decreased steadily until the 1970s. Since the 1980s, Canada has consistently captured a significant share of the world export market. Oats are still used primarily as animal feed, but human consumption is increasing, especially in North America, where oats are considered healthy, especially oat bran (see Nutraceuticals). In the US (and to a lesser extent in Canada), oats is used somewhat for pasture, silage, and haylage, and especially as a cover crop to protect soil, notably on marginal land subject to erosion, and as a nurse crop to protect newly planted forages. The world's leading oat producers are Russia, the European Union, Canada, the US, and Australia. Canada is a leading exporter, in 1997–98 accounting for almost half of all world oat exports, excluding products, 95% of this to the US. In 1997–98, about 1.9 million ha were seed to oats, an area exceeded only by wheat, barley, and canola. Over 90% of production is in Western Canada, and this represents a shift from Eastern Canada where oat cultivation has become less economical as a feedstuff. A further shift has been from the Western to the Eastern Prairies, closer to the major oat market in Minneapolis. The cool growing season on the northern Prairies where oat production is concentrated is a problem, being addressed by continuing plant breeding. Alberta is Canada's major oat producing province, and most of the crop is grown in the north in the grey woodland soil, which is quite acidic, freeing up aluminum, which reduces yield by up to 40%. There is currently research (at AAFC at Lacombe) to breed aluminum-tolerant oats to meet this problem. Oat breeding in Eastern Canada, incorporating new molecular techniques, is a specialty of AAFC at Ottawa. Oats are less likely to be traded than other grains because their bulky nature increases transport costs. Oats are about 25% hull, and offer less energy than barley and maize, limiting their use primarily to starting feedlot rations and for feeding horses. Hulless or naked oats, which lose their hull during harvest, have promise as a feed ingredient. 'AC Lotta', 'AC Percy', and very recently 'Cavena' from AAFC at Ottawa are Canadian cultivars. Hulless oats have higher protein and fat than conventional oats, as much energy as maize, and a better balance of amino acids, and have good prospects as a new Canadian crop. Another new trend is the industrial use of oats in Canada, with the establishment of a processing plant in Saskatoon that refines oat extracts used in products such as animal coat washes and diabetes screening tests. In the past 15 years, oat products have increased from virtually nothing to an estimated 200,000 tonnes for 1997–98. A recent review of trends in the Canadian oat crop is McKinnon (1998).

Maize (Zea mays L.)

Maize has a very long history of cultivation in Central Canada, dating back over a thousand years. With the introduction of US higher-yielding maize hybrids in the mid 1950s, commercial production expanded in the southernmost regions of Ontario. New cultivars of maize have been instrumental in Canada in lowering susceptibility to early frosts and avoiding harvest problems. With the continual development of Canadian hybrids for cooler and shorter growing seasons, commercial maize production spread beyond southern Ontario, and today maize is widely cultivated in Ontario and Quebec, with limited production in Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and Alberta. About three-quarters of Canada's maize is produced in Ontario and Quebec. Maize is primarily a feed ingredient in Canada, with Central Canada accounting for the bulk of consumption (barley is the major feed grain in Western Canada). Fodder maize, used mainly for silage, requires less heat units and has a wider growing range than grain maize. Fodder maize is generally grown for on-farm use. There is a trend for increasing food and industrial use of maize in Canada (see discussion of ethanol production, below). Canada is normally a net importer of maize, with western Canada acquiring it from the US. For a review of the maize industry in Canada, see Kurbis (1996b).

Canary Seed (Phalaris canariensis L.)

Canada is the world leader in the production and export of canary seed from annual canary grass, used in caged and wild bird food mixtures. Commercial production of canary seed started in the US after World War II, concentrated in Minnesota and North Dakota, and production moved to Manitoba and Saskatchewan to become commercially viable in the early 1980s. In 1996, Canada produced 90% of the world supply of canary seed, about 90% in Saskatchewan, the remainder in Manitoba and Alberta. Canary grass is extremely well adapted to the hard red spring wheat of the Prairies, although more sensitive to heat and drought. Ten to 30% of production is used domestically, the remainder, about 125,000 tonnes, is annually exported, largely to Europe, South America, and the US. Canary seed is suited to and mainly produced in the brown soil zone of Western Canada. Substitute bird seeds with the quality of canary seed are generally unavailable (there is occasional substitution with proso millet from the northern US) and, with increasing interest in birds as pets, long term growth of the industry seems assured. A new cultivar known as 'CDC Maria' was recently developed by the University of Saskatchewan's Crop Development Centre. This is expected to revolutionize the industry, eliminating problems such as itchiness and dust associated with the hairy seed coat of older cultivars. 'CDC Maria' and other "hairless" cultivars are expected to replace the traditional canary seed cultivars, which can not be used by humans for food because of the hairs. Dehulled canary seed can be processed into flour and bran, and in addition to this food potential for humans there is some potential for cosmetic purposes. A recent review of the canary seed situation in Canada is Gray (1997b).

Rye (Secale cereale L.)

Rye is a relatively minor cereal in Canada, which is perhaps surprising since it has the ability to withstand unfavorable growing conditions and often thrives where other cereals fail. Although rye can have a higher feed value than barley, the high soluble fiber content (pentosans) reduce feed value for poultry and swine. Although Canada is one of the world's major rye exporters and produces high-quality rye, the world market is small, and Europe grows the crop well, mostly for making bread. In Canada, rye is grown mainly for grain, but also for pasture and hay. Fall rye also provides soil cover from fall through spring. There is limited domestic use of rye in Canada for distilling and for food use, compared to the other cereals discussed above. Several new breeding lines of winter rye were recently bred at AAFC at Lethbridge.

Proso millet (Panicum miliaceum L.)

Proso millet has long been a staple grain in Africa, and has been grown as a forage crop. This sorghum relative is used mostly in the pet food and birdseed industries in North America, but may have some potential as a Canadian grain for human consumption. 'AC Prairie Gold', a millet line adapted to prairie growing conditions, was recently released by AAFC at Morden. While only 1000–2000 ha are currently grown in western Canada, the potential for proso millet has been estimated to be 10,000–15,0000 ha or more (Kiehn and Reimer 1992).

False Melic Grass [Schizachne purpurascens (Torr.) Swallen]

This widespread native grass of Canada produces large grains. It has been suggested that it could be developed into a special cereal like wild rice (Dore and McNeill 1980), although this would require considerable development.

Wild Rice (Zizania palustris L.)

Wild rice (not to be confused with wild forms of Oryza sativa L.), Canada's only native cereal, is collected from natural or planted stands, particularly by indigenous people (Aiken et al. 1988; Crop Development Centre 1991). It requires considerable development, but is well suited to Canada. Wild rice is an economically attractive crop in that the supply is limited while market demand is increasing, a premium price can be obtained, and the climate and natural aquatic habitats of portions of Canada provide competitive advantages. Semi-domesticated paddy wild rice is in commercial production in California and Minnesota, and provides competition for Canadian producers. However, a natural advantage for Canada is the availability of extensive shallow lake and river systems, which usually do not require much if any drainage control. For wild rice to expand as a crop in Canada, development of non-shattering, disease-resistant cultivars is needed. Fast-maturing strains would be an added advantage for northern regions so that seeds would mature before frost.

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench)

Common buckwheat is grown in many major grain producing countries, especially Russia and China. Major exporters are China, Brazil, France, the US, and Canada. Japan accounts for almost all of the world's buckwheat imports. Buckwheat has been grown in Canada for many years as a special crop, and is an important cash crop in Manitoba, but production is currently low. However, this crop presents opportunities for diversification and value-added activities because the Japanese market is growing. In Japan, buckwheat flour is employed in combination with wheat flour to prepare buckwheat noodles (soba), a traditional dish. In some cases, Japanese noodle manufacturers add ground leaves to the buckwheat flour, producing a green noodle. Only about 10% of Canada's buckwheat production is used domestically for human consumption, but this could increase if processors develop new buckwheat products such as snack foods and flour for crpes. Buckwheat can be grown as a green manure crop, companion crop, cover crop, and as a source of dark buckwheat honey. The grain and straw can be used for livestock feed, but the nutritive value is lower than that of cereals. The protein in buckwheat flour is of exceptional quality, containing a high amount of lysine, which is deficient in cereals. Foods are prepared from the groats (dehulled seed) or from the flour. The low gluten content of the flour makes it ideal for crêpes, and in mixtures with wheat flour for bread, pancakes, noodles, and breakfast cereals. Groats and grits (groat granules) can be used for porridge and other breakfast cereals. Dehulled groats can be baked or steamed and eaten as a vegetable like rice, or used in appetizers, soups, salads, breads, and desserts. Development of new Canadian cultivars is occurring to counter climatic disadvantages associated with buckwheat production in Canada. The main buckwheat cultivars grown in Canada are 'Mancan' and 'Manor', developed by AAFC at Morden. 'Mancan' is employed as a quality standard by Japanese millers because of its soft white starch. 'Manisoba' is a new, higher-yielding cultivar with a larger seed that is easier to dehull, leaving behind high whole groat content. 'Manisoba' also facilitates popping the seed, like popcorn, to prepare some specialty products. Western Canadian cultivars are not well adapted to eastern Canada, and a high portion of growers in Ontario and Quebec cultivate buckwheat simply as a green manure crop or a cover crop to crowd out weeds. Research is underway to improve buckwheat cultivars in Quebec and Ontario, where lodging is a frequent problem due to excess moisture. Unlike most cereal crops, buckwheat cannot recover from lodging. There has been considerable recent governmental and grower association encouragement to increase production and marketing of buckwheat in Canada. New proposed value-added activities include dehulling, flour-making, noodle making, and roasting for snacks. Buckwheat produces rutin, which increases the elasticity of arteries and prevents their hardening, and is in demand by the pharmaceutical industry. Scientific research on buckwheat is centered at AAFC Morden. Recent achievements include the development of a self pollinating buckwheat with extremely low seed abortion and better frost tolerance. This is expected to result in a new cultivar in the next several years. A high-yielding self-pollinating experimental strain was recently bred in Manitoba (Henckes and Dietz 1997). A good review of buckwheat in Canada is Vincent and Longmuir (1996).

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.)

Quinoa originated in the highlands of Peru and Bolivia, where it became a staple crop of the Inca empire. By comparison with most cereals it is rather primitive, requiring dehulling to remove bitter seed coat saponins. Considerable quinoa is sold in Canada as a gourmet item in health food stores, in the form of whole grain, pasta, or flour. Quinoa is considered to have some promise for Canada, and there is a Canadian Quinoa Association (Anon. 1992). Currently available forms are late-maturing, therefore vulnerable to frost, and are also susceptible to insect damage. Quinoa would appear to have some possibility for development through germplasm selection in Canada, but is likely to find a more receptive area of cultivation in other countries. In the US, quinoa seems to represent one of the relatively few apparently successful introductions of a new food plant (Johnson 1990).

Amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus L. = A. leucocarpus S. Watson)

Grain amaranth, a pseudo-cereal, is another ancient grain used similarly to quinoa. This dietary staple of Aztec and Mayan civilization is still grown in South and Central America, where it originated, and is used as a vegetable in India and China. The seed can be popped like popcorn and flaked like oatmeal, and is notably high in protein. Amaranth is enjoying a renaissance in popularity in North America. It is sold in health food stores, particularly when organically grown, but has achieved little market status. Amaranth has been experimentally cultivated as an annual grain at AAFC at Morden, and has been thought to have fair long-term potential in the southern Canadian prairies (Kiehn and Reimer 1992). Its future in the US has been considered debatable by some (Lehmann 1991), promising by others (see articles in previous proceedings, particularly Advances in New Crops, 1990).


Oilseeds tend to be higher-value crops than cereals, and are useful as alternatives in crop production and market diversification. Canola, flaxseed, and sunflower seed are particularly considered to be major cash crops for Western Canadian producers, especially when grain markets are poor. In 1996 the farm value of oilseed production in Canada was estimated at $2.883 billion. In addition, oilseed processing contributed $0.5 billion in direct value-added and over $1 billion in spinoff benefits to the Canadian economy. The meal left after oil extraction is also of considerable importance as livestock feed and, as noted below, the grain itself may be a useful animal or human food. In 1997, total vegetable oil production in Canada reached a record level of 1.6 million tonnes, with canola oil accounting for 77%, soybean oil for 17%, linseed oil for 3%, and sunflower oil for 1%. Several of the world's major edible oils, including palm oil, cottonseed oil, peanut oil, coconut oil, olive oil, and palm kernel oil, simply cannot be produced in the climate of Canada, which imports these commodities. Nevertheless, Canada has been a net exporter of vegetable oil since 1992, but this is mostly due to canola exports, especially to the US. In 1997, Canada was responsible for 43% of total world rapeseed/canola oil exports, 10% of linseed oil exports, and less than 1% of soybean and sunflower oil exports. Generally, there is strong regionalization of cultivation of Canada's oilseed species, as noted below. Attempts are underway in Canada to breed new oilseeds (most notably edible oil mustard and edible oil flax, as discussed below). There is also considerable research in Canada to develop new and improved cultivars, which may result in the major oilseeds being cultivated in regions where they are now absent or little grown.

Most of the world protein meal supply is derived from oilseed production. Oilseeds tend to produce meal that differ in their ability to meet the nutritional requirements of the different livestock categories. For example, non-ruminant livestock such as hogs and poultry need high protein feed without the high fiber content suitable for ruminant animals. Small but growing markets for protein meal include the fish feed market (aquaculture) and direct human consumption. Good dietary practice for livestock involves a complementary balance of the base grains of feed rations (such as wheat, barley, and maize), the various high-protein meal supplements, and grass and legume forage/silage crops. Canola meal, Canada's major meal, can be used up to maximum levels in feed rations of 20% for poultry, 15% for grower and finisher hogs, and 25% for dairy cattle.

Canola (Brassica napus L., B. rapa L.)

Oilseeds in Canada are currently dominated by canola (rapeseed), a high value crop cultivated by some 80,000 farms, that has become Canada's second most important crop after wheat. Canola (a trade-marked name) is primarily used in salad and cooking oils, margarine and shortening, and the mealy residue after the oil is extracted is used in livestock feeds. The 1996 census data show that canola accounts for 75% of all vegetable oils produced in Canada, 87% of salad oils, 49% of margarine oils, and 64% of shortening. The development of the canola industry is the premier example of a successful new crop for Canada. The breeding of new edible oil cultivars occurred as a focussed investment strategy that involved over 200 scientist years, costing $40,000,000, spread over 30 years (Jolliff and Snapp 1988). Canola is a relatively new Canadian crop, having begun with rapeseed cultivation in 1942 in Western Canada as a source of lubricants for the allied war effort. Today, a small area of high erucic acid rapeseed in still produced in Canada to satisfy the industrial market. Limitations of nutritional composition of available wartime cultivars restrained human consumption in Western countries. In the mid-1970s, AAFC and the University of Manitoba produced new cultivars, now known as canola, with less than 2% erucic acid and less than 30 micromoles/g of aliphatic glucosinolates in the meal (current levels have been further reduced, respectively to less than 1% and less than 20 micromoles/g). From 1976 to 1996, the total area of canola increased over five times to 3.5 million ha, representing 10% of Canada's total land in crops. In 1985, The US Food and Drug Administration granted canola GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status, and in the light of its superior nutritional characteristics, canola oil sales to the US increased from virtually nil to over 400,000 tonnes annually. About two-thirds of Canada's exports of canola are to the US. Canola seed and meal sales to the US also increased along with canola oil sales. Canola oil's nutritional properties are responsible for its domination of the salad oil market: of the commercially available edible oils, canola contains the lowest levels of saturated fats (6%), the second highest level of monounsaturated fats (58%), and the highest level of the essential fatty acid, linoleic acid (10%). Globally, Canada produces about 17% of the world's rapeseed.

Given the controversy over the public acceptance of genetically-engineered foods, it is perhaps surprising to learn that close to 50% of the cultivated canola area in Canada consists of transgenic cultivars carrying selective resistance to specific herbicides. There are several new types of canola that are currently being bred and may well have a place in Canadian agriculture. "Super-high erucic acid rapeseed" is a type of genetically modified oilseed. A derivative of erucic acid, eruacmide, is used as a slip agent and plasticizer in the manufacture of plastic films. Other types of products that may be produced include cosmetics, lubricants, pharmaceuticals, plasticizers, and surfactants. "Odyssey 500" high stability oil is another product that may become useful. This is over 20 times more stable than conventional vegetable oils. It remains liquid at lower temperatures than other highly stable oils, and has no flavor or color. It may be useful as a moisture barrier, viscosity modifier, gloss enhancer, anti-duster, and band releaser. Still another new type of canola oil that offers stability, long shelf life, and fresh flavor is a high oleic oil, "Clear Valley 75." This has been praised for its desirable combination of taste and nutrition. It has the lowest level of saturated fats, no trans fatty acids from hydrogenation, and bland neutral taste that makes it ideal for cereals, popcorn, dried fruit, and crackers (Beckman 1998).

The most exciting new prospect in Canada for canola is the breeding of mustard (Brassica juncea Coss.) into a new canola species. To date, canola has been represented by the two Brassica species B. napus (Swede rape) and B. rapa (B. campestris L., turnip rape). For the past decade, research has been in progress in Canada toward the breeding of a drought-resistant canola-grade mustard. Canola cultivars presently available are not well suited for many of the relatively dry regions of Western Canada. By contrast, mustard cultivars have several advantages: higher-yielding in all but the short season regions of Western Canada, early maturing, more resistant to late spring frosts, more heat and drought tolerant, more resistant to seed shattering, and more resistant to blackleg disease. Brassica juncea is in fact used as an edible oil crop in China, India, Russia, and Eastern Europe, where an oil with higher levels of erucic acid is permitted, but this is not accepted in most Western countries. Moreover, the high glucosinolate meal has limited use for animal feed. Researchers at AAFC, Saskatoon have developed a mustard plant whose seeds contain meal and oil indistinguishable from canola (Anon. 1998a). A new cultivar may be available by 1999. Given the spectacular success of canola, this could represent an important new crop that would extend the region of the Prairies where canola-class plants can be grown. For marketing purposes, this new crop could be represented as canola, since the products are about identical. A hurdle that remains is the obtainment from the US of a GRAS designation, a necessity to remove trade restrictions. The fortunes of canola rose dramatically after it obtained GRAS status in 1985.

Soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.]

Soybean was first cultivated in Canada in 1893, but not in significant amounts until the late 1920s. Most soybeans are currently grown in Ontario (90%) and Quebec (9%). In the mid-1970s, it was almost impossible to find soybean growing in Eastern Ontario because of the inhospitable climate. 'Maple Arrow', a cultivar bred at AAFC Ottawa, provided the key adaptation for soybean to be transformed into the biggest cash crop in Ontario, where it is known as the "miracle crop." Most soybeans are used domestically in Canada, and the increase in the domestic supply has meant that imports from the US are usually equaled by exports. Soybean oil is used in a huge number of products, for example in the manufacture of edible oils, and in industrial products such as paint, varnish, resins, and plastics. Soybean meal is an important livestock feed, although half of Canada's supply is imported (unlike canola which is crushed mainly for its oil, soybeans are processed primarily for the meal). Most of Canada's soybean feed goes to the hog and chicken industries. Due to the presence of enzymes, soybeans must be roasted before being fed to livestock. Canadian research is attempting to eliminate the need for roasting, and has resulted in a reduction in the levels of the deleterious enzymes so that whole unroasted soybeans have become a significant constituent of livestock rations in Eastern Canada. Canadian cultivars have been bred with qualities required by specific soyfood markets of the Asia Pacific region. The large-seeded, white, high-protein types are prized by southeast Asian markets. Cultivars such as 'Special Quality White Hilum Beans' are exported for processing into tofu, natto, misto, and tempe in Asian markets. 'AC Onrei' is a very large-seeded high-protein cultivar suitable for top-quality nigari tofu. 'OX756' is another line produced by AAFC at Harrow designed to expand exports into the premium Asian soy food market. This is low in enzymes that cause a grassy-beany flavor that some consumers dislike. Genetically modified soybean cultivars are prevalent in the US, and are likely also to be established in Canada. As with other genetically modified crops, there is some public resistance to acceptance of human foods produced from transformed plants, especially in Europe, and this may affect the future development of export markets.

Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum L.)

Flaxseed is generally known as linseed outside of North America, where the name flax refers to the fiber form of the crop used for the linen textile industry. Flaxseed was the first oilseed widely grown in Western Canada, and today the fiber form is cultivated only in very small amounts. Canada is the world's largest producer and exporter of flaxseed. Only a small proportion of Canadian flaxseed is crushed domestically. Canadian flaxseed is produced entirely in Western Canada, mostly in Saskatchewan. Flaxseed represents only 1% of the world supply of oilseeds, but as noted in the following is considered to have high potential for increased industrial use, as well as for human food and feed markets. Flaxseed (linseed) oil is a non-edible drying oil used in manufacturing paints, varnishes, linoleum, printing ink, oilcloth, putty, and plastics. The introduction of petroleum-based floor coverings and latex-based paints resulted in a worldwide decrease of the industrial use of linseed oil for paint and floor covering over the last several decades. Nevertheless, industrial use is expected to increase because of the development of new products. The biodegradability and non-allergenic characteristics of linoleum, coupled with quality improvements, have resulted in a resurgence of demand for linoleum in some parts of Europe. There has also been interest in using a linseed oil based concrete sealant. More significantly, there has been recent research into the development of edible oil-type flaxseed or "Linola" as a vegetable oil, and this market is likely to increase in Canada. Linola lines lack the high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids of conventional flaxseed lines, which makes them less nutritional, but they are more stable at high temperatures and less likely to go rancid, and so more competitive in the vegetable oil market. There has been much interest in Canada in the pharmaceutical value of edible linseed. It is well known that hardening of the arteries, heart disease, and strokes have been dietarily linked to overconsumption of saturated fats. It is much less well known that an unbalanced ratio of polyunsaturated fats has the same effects. The ratio of two polyunsaturated fats is considered particularly important—omega-6 and omega-3, recommended in an intake ratio of 3:1. Average dietary ratios in North America range between 12:1 and 20:1. Flaxseed is generally high in alpha linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid, and has an omega-6/omega-3 ratio of 0.3/1, and so is extremely helpful in balancing the ratio to a healthy level. Omega-3 fatty acids lower levels of triglycerides in the blood, thereby reducing heart disease, and also show promise in the battle against inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. Poultry eating feed rations enriched with flaxseed produce eggs that are notably lower in saturated fat in the yolk. Full-fat (whole) flaxseed is in demand by the laying hen market. About 5% of Canadian laying hens are in fact consuming 10–20% flax in their rations, and so producing eggs that are relatively desirable in their balance of polyunsaturated fatty acids. About a dozen Canadian companies are now selling omega-3 eggs, and several US companies are following suit (Henckes 1998a). Dairy cows fed with flaxseed can produce omega-3 enriched milk and butter, and beef and chicken can be similarly enriched, although how practical this is remains to be determined. Crushing flaxseed for linseed oil produces meal/cake that serves as protein supplements in livestock rations, mainly in Western Europe. Flaxseed has been used extensively in baking in Germany and other central European countries, and there is a growing and highly profitable niche for flaxseed bakery products in North America, especially for specialty breads. Since the early 1990s, there has been some cultivation of 'Solin', a light-colored low-linolenic acid type of flaxseed that has a fatty acid profile similar to sunflower oil. New uses for flaxseed fiber are currently being developed. About $20 million of flaxseed fiber and tow were exported from western Canada to the US in 1995, but only 15–20% of available Canadian flaxseed straw is so used because of high transportation costs in moving the flaxseed straw to the processing plant, and the majority of straw is usually burned on the field. There is increasing interest in Canada in using high-quality fiber for fiberboard and similar application (see discussion below), so that a larger market for flax fiber may develop. For a review of flaxseed in Canada, see Beckman (1997).

Mustard [Brassica juncea (L.) Czern. & Coss., Sinapis alba L.]

Mustard is both a condiment and an oilseed crop, and has been grown in Canada since 1936. There are two species grown, Brassica juncea (brown and oriental mustard), and Sinapis alba (yellow or white mustard). Mustard has been an exceptional success in Canada, with an average of about 200,000 ha producing an average of 250,000 tonnes of seeds, most of which is exported. How much growth there remains for this crop remains to be seen. A small percentage of Canadian mustard is crushed locally, and some is ground to produce mustard flour, mostly for export. Canada is the world's largest supplier of mustard seed, exporting the seed to Japan, the US, Europe, and Bangladesh for use as a condiment. Nearly 40% of Canada's exports of mustard seed goes to the US, but America is increasing its seeded area. Bangladesh, Canada's second-ranking export destination, crushes mustard seed to produce a hot edible oil that is popular in the Indian sub-continent. A small shift from yellow mustards to brown and oriental mustards has been predicted in Canada (Gray 1998).

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.)

The first official government breeding program of sunflower in Canada was initiated in 1930. However, as for rapeseed, commercial cultivation began during World War II as a response to the vegetable oil shortage. Sunflower is grown in relatively small amounts, mainly in southern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan, and it has become a minor "specialty" crop in the cereal areas, serving as an excellent rotation crop for wheat that reduces diseases of the latter. About half of current sunflower production is destined for the confectionery market, 40% is crushed for oil, and 10% is used for bird feed. The residual oil-cake or high-protein meal produced after oil extraction is used for animal feed. About 30% of Canadian production is exported, the US accounting for about 70% of exports, the remainder largely to Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Turkey. Confectionery type seeds have striped hulls, and the largest forms are used for human food. Sunflower seeds can be roasted and salted or baked into bread products for human consumption. Oil-type Canadian sunflower seed cultivars (which can also be used for birdseed) are characterized by black hulls. In the early 1990s, sunola, a short-stemmed drought-resistant type of oilseed sunflower that can be grown as a field rather than a row crop, was introduced into the Canadian prairies, and production of this has since been expanding (Anon. 1994). However, the area of sunflower seed cultivation has been fluctuating, generally declining in Canada for the last decade. Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Texas are presently superior sites for growing sunflower. Sunflower has not become a major source of vegetable oil in Canada because it is susceptible to diseases, has a longer growing period than desirable (120–130 days), needs specialized equipment, and is relatively expensive to produce. The latter two problems are due to the need to row crop sunflower, because of its tall height, and this requires specialized seeding and harvesting equipment, which represents additional capital costs to the producer. New types of sunflower are needed to overcome these problems. To some extent recent sunflower hybrids with earlier maturity, increased yields, and shorter stalks have generated some expansion, but Canadian production remains limited due to the high heat and moisture requirements of the plant. The sunflower situation in Canada is reviewed by Christie (1995a).

Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.)

Safflower is a crop that is deserving of attention because of its versatility. It can be grown for edible oil, meal, or whole seed for dairy cattle, birdseed, and oil for industrial uses. Safflower oil is a wholesome oil, high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, that because of its high linoleic acid content commands a premium price among edible oils, and is competitive from a health viewpoint with canola and olive oil. The cool climate of the Canadian Prairies tends to increase the level of oleic acid (e.g. to over 80%, compared to about 73% in California). Industrial uses are limited, but the drying oil produced by safflower, which is intermediate between soybean and linseed oils, can be used in non-yellowing drying paints, alkyd resins in enamels, and caulks and putties. Because it is a long season crop, safflower extracts water from the soil for a longer period than cereal crops, and the long taproot can draw moisture from deep in the subsoil. These properties can help prevent the spread of dryland salinity, using up surplus water from recharge areas that otherwise would contribute to the development or expansion of saline seeps.

Commercial cultivation of safflower began in Alberta in 1943 when wartime new crop adaptation research was in progress, and currently is concentrated in Alberta and southern Saskatchewan. Production on the Prairies was sporadic from the 1950s through to the 1970s, but in the early 1980s contracts were obtained in southern Manitoba and southern Saskatchewan to produce safflower for processing facilities in Culbertson, Montana. The US cultivars used up to that point were too late in maturing and had severe disease susceptibility, and these problems led to a drastic reduction in cultivation in Manitoba. Most current Canadian cultivars are low in oleic acid and high in linoleic acid, and therefore more appropriate for the birdseed market, and in fact the Canadian safflower crop is currently used as birdfeed, mostly in the US. Oilseed safflower expansion depends on the development of adapted, high-oleic cultivars with high content of oil, improved seedling establishment, and active export efforts and/or a local oil processor becoming established. 'Saffire', the first Canadian safflower cultivar, is a good birdseed cultivar released in 1985, that has a total oil content of only 32%, generally too low for the oilseeed market. A more recent (1991) cultivar, 'AC Stirling', is a dual-purpose birdseed/oilseed cultivar averaging 35% oil, and is considered to have the capability of expanding the oilseed market.

Other Oilseeds

Crambe (Crambe abyssinica Hochst. ex R.E. Fries = C. hispanica L.), a cool-season annual originating from Ethiopia, has been raised in large areas in North Dakota. Meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba Hartw.), a winter annual, originates from and is adapted to the Pacific Northwest of the US, where it has been grown. It has also been grown on Vancouver Island. Both crops seem suitable for Canada. It is too early to judge the potential of these experimental oilseed crops, although the relatively large investments in relation to limited commercial success to date in the US and other countries are discouraging.


Pulses grown in Canada as dry beans include common bean, lentil, field pea, chickpea, and faba bean. Pulses are low in fat, rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates, and good sources of vitamins, and consumption of these healthy foods has been increasing. Additionally, these legumes fix nitrogen, reducing the amount of nitrogen fertilizer required, and generally improving the yield of crops that follow in a rotation. Some pulses, most notably peas, have become an important livestock feed. Pulses have been the chief new successful crops that have served to diversify Western Canadian agriculture since the 1980s.

Common Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.)

Dry edible beans have been a commercial crop in Canada since the mid-19th century, and while not particularly new, recent bean cultivars have allowed the area seeded to expand somewhat from traditional growing areas. Demand for dry common bean has been increasing with world population. In Canada, beans are grown mostly in Ontario (which accounts for about 70%), Alberta, Manitoba, and to a lesser extent in Saskatchewan and Quebec, all areas which provide the necessary warm growing season. White and colored beans are produced in about equal amounts, but this represents a noticeable switch from white to colored bean production, primarily due to increased demand for colored cultivars for export. Indeed, colored bean production continues to increase in Canada, because of the creation of new disease-resistant cultivars, strong promotion and market development, and increasing processing capacity in Western Canada. Ontario produces most of Canada's white beans (also known as white pea beans, navy beans, and alubia chicas). Colored beans are grown mostly in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, and in Alberta under irrigation. Most (75–85%) of Canada's beans are exported, about half to Europe, and about 40% to the US. Bean yields are quite variable because of the requirement for warmth and sensitivity to adverse weather, so that new cultivars better adapted to Canadian conditions are desirable. For a more detailed analysis of the bean crop in Canada, see Vincent (1995) and Gray (1997a).

Adzuki Bean [Vigna angularis (Willd.) Ohwi & Ohashi]

A new adzuki (azuki) bean cultivar, 'AC Gemco', was recently produced by AAFC at Harrow (Ontario), and has genetic consistency that growers have sought, as well as large seed size and high yields. This annual pulse is a major crop in Asia (second only to soybean in Japan), and a limited crop has been produced to date in North America.

Mung Bean [Vigna radiata (L.) R. Wilczek]

Another area of growth for beans is the sprout market, especially mung bean. Canada currently imports almost 2 million kg annually of mung beans for sprouting. The cultivar 'AC Harrowsprout' was recently produced by AAFC at Harrow to meet the demand for a domestic supply of mung beans.

Pea (Pisum sativum L.)

In 1997–98, Canada produced about 14% of the world's dry peas (about 13 million tonnes), and most of this was exported to Europe. Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Manitoba respectively account fr about 70, 20, and 10% of the dry pea seeded area. Field pea has become Caada's sixth most important crop. The area cultivated has been rising for the past 20 years, especially recently, due to an expanding export market, particularly in the European Economic Union, where peas are a traditional feed ingredient for hogs. In eastern Canada, where only 1,000 ha were seeded o peas in 196, the crop is used mainly for on-farm livestock feed, and the prospects for peas as a new crop in areas other than the prairies seem limited. A detailed analysis of the pea crop in Canada is Skrypetz (199).

Lentil (Lens culinaris Medic.)

Canada produces about 13% of the world's lentils (about 2.9 million tonnes for 199–98),and is the third largest producing country after India and Turkey. About 85% are grown in Saskatchewan, the remainder in Manitoba and Alberta. Lentil is a relatively new crop for Canada, produced on the prairies in significant quantities only since the late 1960s. Canadian cultivars ('Laird', 'Eston', 'Richlea', and others) are all green with yellow cotyledons, unlike the red-cotyledon lentils that comprise the bulk of the world's lentil production. 'CDC Redwing', a new red cultivar, is considered promising in part because of its disease resistance. Lentils have some prospect for being used as livestock feed, like peas. For additional information on the lentil crop in Canada, see Gray (1998).

Chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.)

Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) have a wide variety of food uses, and the lower grades can be used as livestock feed. In 1997–98 Canada produced 14,500 tonnes on 10,500 ha. This crop requires a fairly long growing season and prefers dry conditions because of susceptibility to ascochyta blight (caused by Ascochyta rabiei, a devastating seed-borne fungal disease) and a need for heat to set seed. Chickpea is well adapted to the brown soils of Western Canada, and its deep, extensive root system provides good drought tolerance. The Crop Development Centre of the University of Saskatchewan has been concerned with breeding shorter season and ascochyta-resistant cultivars suited to the southern Prairies. Although there is appreciable international competition, there does seem to be a good prospect that chickpea could become a more significant crop in Canada.

Faba Bean (Vicia faba L.)

The faba bean is a small-seeded form of broadbean, an ancient vegetable bean of Europe. A smaller-seeded type of broadbean (known as "la gourgane") is grown in commercial amounts in the St. Jean region of Quebec, mainly for soup (Munro and Small 1997). Faba bean cultivation started in western Canada in 1972, and the area under production has fluctuated widely since then. Protein content of 24–30% makes faba bean an attractive on-farm protein supplement for livestock feeding, and there is also good potential for use as silage. While faba bean is a very minor crop in Canada, it could well become more important.

*In this paper Canadian dollar figures are reported in Canadian currency, and American dollar figures in American currency.
part 2 of New Crops for Canadian Agriculture