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Demand for UK borage oil blossoms
A COMPANY is seeking more farmers to grow borage in the North of England.
With a gross margin of more than £1,100 per hectare – almost twice that of peas and malting barley, its nearest challengers – borage is potentially the most profitable spring-sown crop, if grown well.
Technology Crops is taking the lead in developing its potential following rapidly increased demand for UKproduced borage oil The crop is grown for its high-value seed which is harvested, crushed and refined before being used in dietary supplements, baby foods, personal care and veterinary products – often as an alternative to evening primrose.
Technology Crops says borage offers farmers the advantage of growing for a specific market on secure, multi-year, minimum-price contracts and has significant agronomic and environmental advantages.
The crop requires little fertiliser or agrochemical inputs; is unpalatable to rabbits and pigeons; is very beefriendly; can often be grown where the soil is too wet for oilseed rape; provides an opportunity to control grass weeds, particularly resistant black-grass; and provides an ideal, slug-free min-til entry into wheat.
Borage has been grown commercially in the UK for at least ten years, but never on a large scale and production has been rather hit-andmiss.
Nigel Padbury, of Technology Crops, says that production and demand are now much more professional.
“Worldwide demand for integrated supply chain partnerships to provide highquality oils that meet the needs of manufacturers of premium products and foodstuffs is increasing,” said Mr Padbury.
“We have a well-established network of partnerships with global oil users, not just traders, meaning that we do not produce crops speculatively and can offer growers long-term contracts which offer growers real security at a time of extreme volatility in prices for conventional agricultural crops.”
The company specialises in the production, processing and delivery of speciality crops.
As part of its long-term commitment to its growers, the company is developing regional groups to share knowledge and facilities to help them reduce production costs and maximise profitability.
“There’s real and rapidlygrowing demand for borage oil produced from UKgrown crops because of its high quality,” said Mr Padbury. “Technology Crops has been contracting borage in the UK since 2004 and is now looking for more farmers to grow it in 2014.
Although many farmers might assume these specialist crops might be restricted to growers in the South, that’s not the case with borage.
One of the key benefits of growing it in the North of England, even up into the Scottish Borders, is longer daylight hours during the growing period.
This results in higher levels of Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid, which is naturally produced by the human body but is sometimes not present in sufficient quantities due to ageing or dietary deficiencies.
In terms of growing the crop, borage seed is similar in size to wheat and can be drilled into a compactionfree seedbed at 25kg/ha from March until the end of May, once the soil temperature is above 10C.
The crop’s rapid growth from sowing to harvest – about 100 days – means it out-competes most weeds and, therefore, requires little in the way of herbicides.
Interested farmers should contact Technology Crops Ltd, Gowers Farm, Tumblers Green, Braintree, Essex, on 01376-333888 or visit techcrops.com.
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