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New Crops News, Spring 1991, Vol. 1 No. 1

Canola: A Potential New Crop For Indiana

What is canola?

Canola is a type of rapeseed that has been developed to contain less than 2% erucic acid in the oil and less than 30 ppm glucosinolates in the meal. 'Canola' is the coined name selected to identify those rapeseed cultivars which are genetically low in both erucic acid and glucosinolates.

Canola is a cool-season, annual oilseed crop. It is a member of the mustard family and, in the rosette form in the fall, looks very similar to young broccoli, mustard, turnip, or cabbage. In the spring the plant bolts, reaching a height of 3 to 5 feet and produces bright yellow flowers. The plant matures in mid to late June in southern Indiana and early to mid July in northern Indiana. The small, spherical, dark-colored seed weighs 50 pounds per bushel. The seed contains 40% oil and a residual animal feed meal containing 37-38% crude protein.

What are the uses for canola?

In the fall of 1988 the FDA permitted the name canola or canola oil to be used as the generic name for low erucic acid rapeseed oil. This development resulted in a significant increase in the importation of canola oil. Canola oil is a high quality vegetable oil used as both a cooking oil and a salad oil. The increasing demand for canola oil is caused in part by a health-conscious consumer trying to avoid high levels of cholesterol and saturated fatty acids. Like all vegetable oils, canola oil contains no cholesterol. The level of saturated fatty acids in canola oil is the lowest of all vegetable oils (6%). Therefore, the level of unsaturated fatty acids is the highest of all vegetable oils with a large part consisting of monounsaturated fatty acids (58%).

Is canola adapted to Indiana conditions?

Preliminary investigations indicate that canola can be successfully grown in Indiana. These investigations have shown that some precautions and care must be taken to permit success with the crop. Selection of the site or field on which to produce canola is very critical. Canola is best adapted to well-drained soils. It usually performs well on soils suited for wheat production. Canola does not tolerate water-logged soil conditions, or soils with standing water, during the fall and winter months. Stands of canola have been virtually destroyed as the result of wet winter soils in Indiana.

Planting date is also critical to successful production of the crop. The optimum planting dates in Indiana are from August 20 in the north to September 15 in the south. Planting later than the suggested dates can result in decreased winter survival, as well as reduced yields. Planting earlier than the suggested date can also result in decreased winter survival, particularly if bud formation and stem elongation occur in the fall prior to the onset of winter dormancy.

Proper planting depth is important to assure good stand establishment. A uniform 3/8- to 1/2-inch planting depth is ideal for canola. Any grain drill with good depth control and a grass or alfalfa seed attachment that will give a precise seeding rate is suitable for planting canola.

Is specialized equipment required to grow canola?

In most cases, any farm equipped to grow wheat is properly equipped to produce canola. As mentioned above, grain drills and cultipacker seeders that will give a precise seeding depth and rate are well suited for canola. Conventional combines are utilized to harvest canola. The combine must be properly adjusted to prevent harvest loss.

Are there established markets for canola?

Canola can be sold through a limited number of elevators in Indiana. Prior to planting canola, a producer should determine the location of the nearest delivery point so that transportation costs are known in advance. Direct delivery to the processor would be an alternative to selling the crop locally, particularly if it must be trucked some distance. Currently, Indiana’s production is shipped either to Chattanooga, Tennessee, or Windsor, Ontario, Canada.

Prices received for canola are based on the Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada market, less shipping costs, grain elevator handling fees, and the conversion rates of the Canadian dollar to the U.S. dollar. Since canola is 40% oil, its price will depend to a great extent on the market price for other vegetable oils and, therefore, will tend to rise and fall with the soybean oil market. In addition to these, the final price paid to the producer may be reduced as a result of discounts for damaged seed, foreign material, garlic, green seed, and moisture.

What is the future for canola in Indiana?

The limited information available indicates that canola can be successfully grown in Indiana. However, Indiana has not experienced severe winter weather the past three years. Until we experience a severe winter, we will not have a true measure of winter hardiness. At this point in time, it appears that canola has the best chance of success of any new crop attempted in the past 25 years. In some years and on some farms, available land on which to plant canola may not be available. However, with proper planning, this problem can be eliminated. The advantages of canola production include the spreading of some risks by having a crop that is planted and harvested at a time different than corn and soybeans. Additionally, canola seeding is done at a time when it does not compete with most other crops, it introduces a different crop into the system permitting better crop rotations, and provides a crop to sell in early summer to help cash flow.

Canola and the 1990 farm bill.

The 1990 farm bill provides for the production of certain minor oilseed crops on land enrolled in the 0/92 program. Canola is one of the minor oilseed crops listed in this section of the farm bill. This section permits the production of canola on the allowed wheat, corn, or other feed grain base acres of a farm while collecting 92% of the deficiency payment. The option is very attractive on wheat base acres in the northern portion of Indiana where soybeans cannot be double cropped.

The acreage planted to canola in the fall of 1990 is not accurately known, however, it has been estimated at about 7,500 acres or about one and one-half times the acreage planted last year. The continued strong demand for canola oil and the 0/92-minor oilseed provision of the 1990 farm bill could result in a significant increase in acres planted in the fall of 1991.

If you are interested in additional information related to canola production, you should contact your local County Extension Office and request a copy of AY-272, Canola - An Alternative Crop in Indiana.

Ellsworth Christmas
Department of Agronomy
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1165


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