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Are Poppies A Viable Crop For North America?
One pound of poppy seed purchased from an average Western Canadian grocery store sells for more than $10.
    Ieuan Evans, a Forensic Plant Pathologist in Edmonton, Alberta, believes Canadian farmers should consider the possibility of growing the seed and oil crop.
    Trials going back 3 decades have shown yields in Manitoba and Alberta fields ranged from 15 to 50 bushels per acre.
    Tasmania, an island state of Australia, is currently the world’s largest producer of narcotic raw material (NRM) used in morphine and codeine for pain relief. These poppy crops are harvested before maturity, after they’ve flowered and while the round seed heads are still developing. The straw is cut, dried, and processed, yielding up to 3 percent alkaloid (opiate).
    “The poppies grown now don’t have opiates right away,” Evans says. “They need to be changed for someone to smoke them. Plus, they must be refined into opiates for pills and drugs.”
    Countries such as Britain, Spain, France, Afghanistan, and Pakistan grow large amounts of poppies just for the food value of the seeds.
    The seeds are 40 to 50 percent oil and have a high nutrient value of 20 percent protein. Unlike the straw and pods, they contain almost no opiate.
    In recent years, plant breeders have developed high-yielding strains of the opium poppy with very low levels of opiates.
    “The point of growing them in Canada is we spend hundreds of millions of dollars importing opiates. Growing our own is safe enough that we don’t need to be doing this,” Evans says.
    On top of opiate purchases, Canada imports around 1,200 tons of poppy seed annually.
    He believes poppies, if disease-free, would be a profitable crop for Canadian farmers as an alternative to wheat, barley, and canola since the seed is perfectly suited to the climate and dryland farming practices.
    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Ieuan Evans, Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada (dr.irevans@gmail.com; www.drieuanevans.com).

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2023 - Volume #47, Issue #6