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New Crops News, Spring 1993, vol. 3 no. 1

Indiana Canola Update

The 1991-92 late fall and winter weather conditions in Indiana proved to be disastrous for fall seeded crops, including alfalfa, canola, and wheat. As the spring temperatures warmed it was obvious that the entire Indiana canola crop of approximately 7,500 acres had been lost to this unusual weather. Likewise, most of the fall seeded alfalfa was killed, along with more than 400 thousand acres of wheat.

The fall 1992 plantings of canola are estimated to be approximately 2,500 acres. This reduction in canola acreage is the result of the reduced acreage of wheat in northern Indiana and the delayed harvest in southern Indiana, which in turn resulted in significantly less available land available for canola. The lost crop in the winter of 1991-92 also had a negative impact.

The canola research plots planted in the fall of 1992 have not been injured by the late fall and early winter weather. However, the condition of the crop cannot be fully evaluated until it breaks dormancy in March.

No-till double crop soybeans after canola

Indiana producers have asked a number of questions regarding the production of canola in the state. One of the questions posed dealt with the impact of canola as compared to wheat on double crop soybeans in southern Indiana.

To obtain information needed to respond to this question, an experiment was initiated in the fall of 1990 by Ellsworth Christmas, at the Southern Indiana Purdue Agricultural Center (SIPAC). In early September of 1990, a piece of land at SIPAC was divided into three plots, with one being planted to canola, the second planted to wheat in October, and third left unplanted without any type of weed control. Both the wheat and canola plots were treated culturally as commercial production. The third plot was mowed approximately two weeks prior to harvest of the wheat and canola, which occurred on June 13, 1991. Each of these plots was divided into eight sub-plots and no-till planted to a different soybean variety. Chemical weed control was then applied to the entire area.

The average yield for the eight soybean varieties (28 bu) grown on the canola plot was significantly higher than for the wheat or natural vegetation plots (both 21 bushels) indicating that soybeans respond very positively when produced as a no-till double crop following canola as compared to wheat.

Spring canola in Indiana

Another frequently asked question relates to the feasibility of producing spring canola in Indiana. June and July weather conditions in Indiana are generally too warm for spring canola to pollinate and set seed. Additionally, yield potential of spring canola is about 65% of the yield of winter canola, and at these levels spring canola cannot compete economically with corn or soybeans.

However, to obtain actual yield data when grown under Indiana conditions, a spring canola variety trial was planted in the spring of 1991 at three locations in Indiana and in 1992 at two locations. June and July of 1991 were very hot and dry, resulting in no seed production at Vincennes and very little seed production at Lafayette and Wanatah. The weather conditions in 1992 were much cooler during June and July with quite different results (Table 1).

Table 1. Yield of eight spring canola varieties at two locations in Indiana, 1992.

             Yield (bu/acre)    
Variety     NEPAC    PinneyPAC  
Bingo        12.5      21.4       
Iris         15.2      23.7       
Donna        17.0      20.8       
Cyclone      13.0      21.4       
A 114        16.0      21.9       
PRACTOL      10.0      26.2       
PRINTOL      16.4      22.7       
MCLP 035     16.1      21.5       
Check 1      18.3      24.2       
Check 2      16.5      21.4       
Average      15.1      22.5       

If summer temperatures remain as cool as 1992, spring canola could be successfully grown in Indiana. Even though spring canola was successfully produced in 1992, yields were only about half those needed to compete with soybeans at the Pinney Purdue Agricultural Center. Until future results prove otherwise, we will continue our caution against planting spring canola in Indiana.

The popularity of canola oil as a component in foods and pharmaceuticals continues to grow very rapidly. The increased popularity and demand are driven by health concerns, with canola oil viewed as being healthier since it is low in saturated fatty acids and high in mono unsaturated fatty acids. Most of the canola oil used in the U.S. is imported, with last year's level equaling more than a million acres. Farmer interest in Indiana continues to run high, but farmer results have been erratic. Variety evaluation research has resulted in better adapted, higher yielding varieties for use in Indiana. Partial solutions have been found for other problems, but much remains to be learned. Canola has the best chance of becoming a crop in the U.S. of any potential new crop researched in the last 25 years. If Indiana is to capture a part of the potential acreage, more must be learned about its production under Indiana conditions.