China Tests New “Chips” of Rapeseed
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The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) tests its new Rapeseed variety in eastern China’s Jiangxi province, intending to take advantage of idle fields during winter. The new Rapeseed breed could utilize vacant winter farmland to increase vegetable oil production and further ease China’s dependence on overseas vegetable oils.
“As China’s major oilseed crop, Rapeseed accounts for half of the domestically produced oil. There are more than 64 million mu [about 4.27 million hectares, or 10.6 million acres] of unused fields in the winter after the rice-planting season. This creates huge potential for Rapeseed expansion and production,” said Wang Xinfa, a CASS researcher.
Beijing has been sounding the alarm on the need to curb China’s reliance on seed imports. The nation’s top agricultural journal said in an article last month that the domestic seed industry was suffering from a lack of innovation and was losing its edge in the global market while calling seeds the “chips of agriculture”.
This new Rapeseed variety has been developed to reduce the main constraints of winter sowing, including a shorter growth cycle, increased cold tolerance, and earlier fertility. The application of this Rapeseed variety could increase China’s self-sufficiency in vegetable oil by about 12 percentage points, through an increase of about 11.25 million tons of Rapeseed per year, according to CAAS. China’s self-sufficiency in edible oil is around 30 percent, and most of it still relies on imports.
“Winter [in eastern China] is ideal for growing Rapeseed, as lower temperatures will reduce the probability of pest and disease damage, while this temperature is still suitable for Rapeseed growth,” noted Jia Yinsuo, chair of the China branch of the African Academy of Sciences. And while agricultural land is best restored to soil fertility in winter by leaving it fallow, it is still adequate for Rapeseed cultivation, Jia added.
This new Rapeseed variety offers an opportunity to fill the vacant winter farmland where rice, the primary dietary crop of the Chinese people, is usually grown twice apart from winter, according to Wang Bing Bing, CEO of BioBin Data Science. “Although China is not in a seed-purchasing dilemma for now, concerns have arisen in Beijing after it saw Russian seeds subjected to sanctions, which is why China has repeatedly stressed the need to increase the cultivation of oil crops this year, especially short-cycle ones,” Wang explained. Beijing has proposed implementing “a model of rotational cultivation of rice and vegetable oil, to vigorously develop and make use of vacant fields in winter to grow Rapeseed.”
Canadian’s View on Chinese Rapeseed Variety
Rapeseed is mainly imported from Canada. According to AgFlow data, Canada shipped 1.2 million tons of Rapeseeds to China in Q1, 2023, followed by Australia (60,000 tons).
Jeremy Welter, a director with the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said he is excited for Chinese growers because it could increase their revenues. However, he is not thrilled by the prospect that it could reduce income on his farm near Kerrobert, Sask. “If this does turn out to be something that allows China to take a step back from Canadian Canola in any major way, it will adversely impact Canola markets,” he said.
He doesn’t know if the Rapeseed China grows is interchangeable with Canadian Canola or if the two crops service different markets. But it sounds like a potential threat and should provide yet another impetus for groups like the Canadian Canola Growers Association and the Canola Council of Canada to knock down doors in other markets worldwide, said Welter. The good news is that exploding demand from North America’s burgeoning renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel sectors could help offset any lost demand from China.
Other sources: SCMP
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