Higher than expected levels of erucic acid have been found in seed grown from double-low oilseed rape varieties. These guidelines highlight the key risk points where management of erucic acid levels can make a difference.
Most oilseed rape (OSR) varieties grown in the UK are classified as ‘double-low’ – also called ‘double-zero’ and ‘00’. Such varieties have a low erucic acid content, making seeds suitable for both human and animal consumption.
Some OSR varieties grown in the UK have been bred to have relatively high levels of erucic acid – HEAR (high erucic acid rape) and other specialist oil compositions.
Erucic acid is a naturally occurring fatty acid found in both OSR and related species (including several weed species associated with arable systems).
For rapeseed oil to be used in food products, erucic acid levels must, by law, not exceed 5 per cent. The current maximum level in most contracts is set to 2 per cent. The European Commission plans to change the legal food standard to 2 per cent, which may come into force as early as autumn 2018.
Over the last three years, higher than expected levels of erucic acid have been found in seed grown from double-low varieties, with some deliveries exceeding both the 2 and 5 per cent limits.
With standards becoming tighter, it is essential to minimise erucic acid in double-low OSR to meet standards and avoid penalties or rejections.
These guidelines highlight the key risk points where management can make a difference. They also provide information on record keeping, sampling and the tests required to investigate any exceedance of legal and/or contractual limits.
The following organisations contributed to the development of the guide:
#1 – Seed source
#2 – Pre-planting
#3 – Established crop (weeds and volunteers)
#4 – Harvest
#5 – Contracts
Erucic acid research
Erucic acid risks are now much better understood, thanks to a new AHDB report. Find out more about how to manage risks in your crops and how to deal with potential disputes.
Available in print
Read an article on erucic acid in the Autumn/Winter edition of Grain Outlook (p. 14-15)