With the approval of Health Canada’s office of controlled substances, API Labs has been conducting research since 2012. This research has focused on gathering agronomic data to develop a best practices for commercial poppy cultivation. For example, our trials include: assessing different varieties, testing different seeding densities, exploring pesticide application options, determining optimal soil nutrient levels, developing disease management strategies as well as the finding a practical mechanized approach to poppy cultivation.
Additional research is ongoing in the area of novel variety creation and developing the pharmaceutical extraction and conversion processes that will be employed in the future commercial API processing facility.
Southern Alberta provides the ideal conditions (high latitude and dry climate) for poppy crop production. Our work so far has successfully exploited the use of machinery common to Southern Alberta including a disk-drill and traditional, straight-cut combine. Our future research will investigate the application of other types of seeding and harvest machinery common to Southern Alberta.
In 2015, more than 36 million of hectares was dedicated to the cultivation of established crops such as canola, wheat, barley, oats, soybeans and corn for grain1. We expect that Canadian domestic demand for poppy seed could be met with less than 5,000 hectares of poppy production. At 0.0001% of the aforementioned land base, this poppy crop could be included into existing rotations without significantly displacing the production of other staple, food crops.
So far all cultivation has been done under the umbrella of a research licence and has been conducted on API Labs leased land. When the appropriate permission have been granted by the Canadian federal government, the culinary production of poppies would require the cultivation of the crop on additional farms.
While poppy seed is not a staple product and there is no ‘minimum threshold’ required on an annual basis, poppy seed prices have more than doubled since 2011 indicating that the quantity produced has not met the world demand. Furthermore, since no commercial poppy cultivation exists in North America, poppy seeds are also exclusively imported.
Jobs will be created as a result of domestic poppy cultivation for culinary purposes. We will need agronomists, researchers, and facility workers for the seed cleaning as well as jobs in the ancillary positions such as human resources and administration.
1Statistics Canada – Agriculture – Summary Table for Field and Special Crops.