Flax growers’ subsidy for Triffid tests soon ending

Flax growers are urged to take advantage of a program subsidizing the cost of testing their harvested crops and seed for Triffid genetics before it’s gone at the end of next month.

Funding for the Flax Farm Stewardship testing program, which since 2011 has covered 50 per cent of the fees for farmers to get their pedigreed and farm-saved tested at approved labs, up to a maximum $100 per sample, is now set to end Feb. 28, the Flax Council of Canada said Thursday in a release.

The flax testing program had been funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through its Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP). With that funding, the council reimbursed labs for the balance of their fees.

The council had said in September it was “exploring ways to extend funding for the program through to the end of 2014.”

Farmers’ participation in the Flax Farm Stewardship Program “has been instrumental in reducing the incidence of Triffid and has been a cornerstone to the industry’s efforts in restoring confidence in the (European Union) marketplace,” the council said in its release.

Flax growers thus “are encouraged to complete testing of harvested flax seed and planting seed for the presence of Triffid prior to Feb. 28,” the council said.

Some flax buyers will only accept test results from certain labs, the council noted. Lists of approved labs and of companies’ preferred labs are available online.

“Close as possible”

Bred at the University of Saskatchewan’s Crop Development Centre for tolerance to soil residues of sulfonylurea herbicides, genetically-modified CDC Triffid got regulatory approval for release in 1998. Faced with concern over the loss of export markets if a GMO flax was introduced, Triffid was deregistered in 2001 without ever being commercialized.

Triffid genetics then unexpectedly turned up in flax exports to the GMO-shy European Union in 2009, sending Canada’s flax exports spiralling to an all-time low by 2011.

With a regime of testing both seed and harvested crops introduced in 2009, the percentage of samples of crop production testing positive for Triffid fell from 14 per cent to below four per cent by 2013.

However, the flax council said in September, “despite these efforts, the amount of Triffid in farm-saved seed stocks and production tested has plateaued in the last two years.”

To further reduce Triffid levels, the council urges growers to segregate their 2013 harvest from production grown in previous years, then to market the flax grown in previous years first, to help make sure any stocks containing Triffid are “flushed” from the system.

It’s expected testing of farm stocks will be “discontinued” at the end of 2014 — and the testing of planting seed will continue “indefinitely,” the council said in September.

“The continued effort over the next year and a half are expected to reduce the amount of Triffid in the Canadian flax crop, to a level that is as close to zero as possible and to the point where testing of farm stocks is no longer necessary.” — AGCanada.com Network

Related stories:
Deregistered Canadian GM flax pops up in Europe, Sept. 10, 2009
Flax acres could rise in 2014 if prices stay stable, Dec. 24, 2013

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