Medicinal Plants

Program Background

milk thistle flowerProduction and processing of spice crops and medicinal herbs represents a potential bright spot in the future of Saskatchewan’s agricultural sector. Saskatchewan growers have established a worldwide reputation as cost-competitive suppliers of superior quality medicinal plants and spices. Based on present growth rates, the Saskatchewan Herb and Spice Association (SHSA) projects the value of primary production of Saskatchewan-grown herb and spice products will approach $ 200 million annually by 2010. Numerous opportunities are available to add further value to these crops through processing, blending, preservation, extraction, encapsulation and packaging. A number of Saskatchewan companies have seized these opportunities, resulting in significant employment and economic activity in both urban and small town settings.

coriander seedThe marketplace for medicinals and spices is demanding, rapidly changing and highly competitive. To stay viable, Saskatchewan’s herb and spice sector must focus on the best crops, varieties and production practices available. Emerging threats such as disease must be identified and dealt with effectively, but in a manner that does not jeopardise Saskatchewan’s reputation for producing a safe, quality product.

cumin seedThis program takes a multi-disciplined approach to address the key production challenges for spice crops such as cumin, caraway and corriander and medicinal crops such as milk thistle under the relatively short and cool growing conditions in Saskatchewan. Production of these crops in Saskatchewan is presently limited by challenging growing conditions and specific agronomic problems. This project aims to alleviate these problems by crop improvement and development of superior agronomic practices.

Although improvement of spice/medicinal crops is possible utilizing standard plant breeding methods – the process is slow and consequently expensive. Double haploid technology allows the creation of a genetically homogeneous population without the need for multiple generations of selfing. This has the potential to greatly accelerate progress in improvement of medicinal/aromatic plants.

Visit the Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Research Photo Gallery


Program Objectives

1. Introduction/Development of New/Improved Lines of Cumin and Milk Thistle by:
a) accessing and evaluating potentially suitable material from public and private sources.
b) working with breeders from the Crop Development Center of the University of Saskatchewan to further develop adapted crop lines.

2. Pathology Support to Reduce Losses to Disease in Spice Crops:
Diseases such as root rot and blossom blight have decimated previous plantings of spice crops in Saskatchewan. This project takes an integrated approach to managing diseases in these crops.

3. Improve Agronomic Practices for Milk Thistle:
The objective of this project is to identify production practices that will increase seed yields and quality of milk thistle, while also improving the efficiency of mechanical harvest.
a)Time of seeding, seeding rate and row spacing effects on growth, yield and quality characteristics.
b) Optimizing nitrogen and phosphorus application rates. 
c) Comparing organic products versus standard chemicals for desiccation of the crop.
d) Valuable components in the waste remaining after extraction of silymarin from milk thistle seed.
e) Grading to improve milk thistle quality.

dill4. Field Performance of New Lines of Spice/Medicinal Crops Created Using Double Haploid Technology: PDF
a) To evaluate lines of dill, fennel and anise created by PBI/NRC using double haploid technology.
b) to compare the performance of the double haploid lines to parental lines.


Medicinal and Aromatic presentations:

Grower and industry education is an important component of the Vegetable Program. Dr. Doug Waterer has put together a variety of presentations for conferences and various grower groups around the province of Saskatchewan.

For more presentations visit the Presentations Page