Top Crop Manager

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Canola: a rising star in the East


November 30, 1999
By Top Crop Manager

Topics

Advances for growers from Ontario to the Maritimes hold the potential for better market access.

The golden crop of the Prairies is carving out a growing and profitable niche in Ontario. Although best known in Eastern Canada as an alternative crop, canola is earning its place in a typical crop rotation alongside corn, soybeans and wheat. “Canola acres in Ontario are poised for significant growth,” says Carrie James, general manager of the Ontario Canola Growers Association (OCGA). Northern Ontario holds the most promise, according to OCGA, with predictions that canola acres may increase by 50 percent in that area which already accounts for half of Ontario’s canola production.

With a shorter growing season than soybeans and a preference for cool weather conditions, canola offers a rotational choice that fits in well prior to winter wheat. Canola
offers plenty of appeal for growers, especially in northern Ontario and the cooler climate regions of central and
eastern Ontario.

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A time for canola
“One of the biggest benefits to growing canola is the timing; it allows me to plant winter wheat earlier and it fits nicely into our cash crop rotation,” says Larry Schill of Lardeb Farms, located near Drayton, Ontario. Schill farms with his sons in northern and southwestern Ontario, and the logistics of distance requires them to make a number of management decisions based on workload timing, soil type and weather conditions.

Winter wheat often follows canola in a typical crop rotation in regions farther to the north, explains Brian Hall, canola and edible bean specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The timing of canola harvest in late summer or early fall usually allows growers ample time to seed winter wheat before the harvest of other crops such as soybeans begins. “Growers often comment that some of their best stands of winter wheat are those that are planted following canola,” says Hall. This may be due to better establishment before winter, more uniform stands going into the winter months, and the residual canola stubble helping to trap snow and protect against icing over of the crop. Canola is also a good fit for livestock farmers who need to consider manure application timing. The ability to spread manure early, after canola harvest, allows them to add extra nutrients for the next year’s crop and allow early planting of winter wheat.

Canola makes a great fit for many cash crop operations. Hall points out that canola makes sense for growers who are looking for a profitable cash crop to add to their rotation in cooler climate growing areas and for those who need some flexibility in timing with winter wheat planting. “It’s not suited to the hotter growing areas of southwestern Ontario, where it doesn’t perform as well and has a tough time competing with soybeans, which offer more consistent yields,” says Hall.

Effective weed control
Weed control is another benefit of including canola in a crop rotation, especially in the New Liskeard area, explains Hall. With limited herbicide options for grains and forages in the northern growing areas, canola offers an effective and easy weed control program that fits well into a rotation. Effectively combating weeds in canola helps to control weeds in other crops within a rotation. Hall reminds growers that weed control in canola is simple, with two herbicide-tolerant technologies available in Eastern Canada: LibertyLink with Invigor or Roundup Ready canola. “Incorporating canola into a crop rotation provides economical weed control,” explains Hall. “It reduces reoccurring weed problems in an easy and cost-effective way.”

Growing markets
Accessibility comes into play when considering adding a new crop into a rotation. Eastern Canada has limited market access for canola when compared to Western Canada, but Ontario has two canola crushers that are eager for locally produced canola. “As long as the quality is acceptable, there seems to be an almost endless demand for our canola crops,” says Schill. The Ontario crushers meet the crushing demand for food grade oil from both canola and soybeans. With the opening of a new crushing facility in Bécancour, Quebec, in March 2010, canola growers in Eastern Canada have another marketing option for their product. Approximately 800 growers in Ontario produce more than 48,000 acres. These growers know that canola is more than just an alternative crop and have had success incorporating it into their crop rotation. “Canola just makes sense for many growers,” says Hall.

Canola’s blooming presence
Although canola is not a new crop in Eastern Canada, this region still has a lot of growth potential as a profitable cash crop alternative. Rod Merryweather, North American oilseeds business operations manager with the BioScience division of Bayer CropScience, expects canola acres in Eastern Canada to continue to grow, with the potential to reach 200,000 acres or more. “Canola is an appealing crop, it offers growers a good return on their investment, and demand is expected to increase with the opening of the new crushing facility in Quebec,” says Merryweather, referring to the new Twin River Technologies plant. “I believe we can even expect to see further canola expansion into the Maritimes as a rotational crop to potatoes.”

Canola has advanced significantly during the past few years and Eastern Canadian growers are fortunate that they can look to their Western Canadian neighbours for resources, tips and production research. The adaptability of canola to the cooler areas and shorter growing seasons of northern Ontario and Quebec can be attributed to ongoing research and production of western canola crops. The companies involved in research work to ensure the success and adaptability of such varieties by testing them in regional plots throughout Eastern Canada. Agronomic information is continuously shared through grower associations across Canada, and the ongoing advancements of breeding and genetics ensures the availability of top-performing hybrids for growers.

Bayer CropScience recently opened a Canola Breeding Centre of Innovation in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. With 50,000 square feet of laboratories and phytotron growth chambers, 8000 square feet of greenhouses and 560 acres of farmland, this $15-million investment is an integrated canola breeding facility that is certain to have an impact on global canola production. Already, the company has made significant inroads with its October 2009 announcement that it has sequenced the entire genome of rapeseed/canola. The sequencing project was a collaboration with several parties that will enable the company to develop products with new traits and output traits for the benefits of producers, crushers and consumers. “We are committed to the advancement of canola,” says Merryweather, who adds that the bioscience division of Bayer CropScience has committed an ongoing investment of approximately $5 to $10 million each year to enhance the ability to grow canola in Canada.