At present, growers attempting to produce cumin in Saskatchewan typically obtain seed from Syria and/or Turkey which are also the dominant suppliers of this commodity at this time. The material obtained so far from these sources has been too short of stature to be mechanically combined and too late to achieve consistent yields under the relatively short Saskatchewan growing season. Blossom blights have also been problematic in the limited number of cumin lines that have been tested in Saskatchewan.
Although milk thistle has been used medicinally for centuries, it has only been under cultivated production for a few decades. Most of the milk thistle planting material presently available to growers was derived by selection and multiplication of plants from wild stands. Efforts to enhance agronomic perform or quality of milk thistle through systematic breeding have been limited. Consequently the crop has considerable potential for improvement in terms of yields, growth habit, quality (as indicated by silymarin content), uniformity of maturity and particularly in its resistance to shattering.
Screening trials represent a highly cost effective means for identifying material adapted to specific environments, production methods or markets. The project accessed promising lines of both milk thistle and cumin from local sources and areas where these crops have a longer history of production (India, the Middle East and Eastern Europe for cumin and Central Europe for milk thistle). The Plant Gene Resource Centre (PGRC) of Agriculture Canada located in Saskatoon (Dr. A Diederichsen B Curator) assisted by accessing worldwide germplasm collections of these crops
This project evaluated all available lines of cumin and milk thistle under typical Saskatchewan production conditions – looking for promising lines or parental material for future improvement programs.