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Canola for the Maritimes

Interest in growing canola in Maritime Canada is strong in 2009.


September 30, 2009
By Treena Hein

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Interest in growing canola in Maritime Canada is strong in 2009.

Will Proctor, an acting crop innovation officer at the Prince Edward Island Department of Agriculture, says canola has been investigated on the Island for more than 10 years. “About 1700 acres of canola is grown currently in PEI, with an average yield of 0.85 tonnes per acre in 2008.”

The currently contracted production on PEI serves a non-GMO market, says Proctor, feeding the markets for whole seed and cold press oil production. “There has been an increase in canola (and soybean) production in PEI recently because of the closure of a hog processing plant in Charlottetown. Producers who had grown barley for the hogs needed to switch to something else.”
Heat units for PEI range from 2400 to 2700, says Proctor. “This is similar to Manitoba, so there are transferable genetics,” he notes. “Growers can take advantage of the seed company representatives’ knowledge.”

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Currently, there is no breeding work being done in canola in the Maritimes, says Doug MacDonald, scientific officer of the Nova Scotia Crop Development Institute (NSCDI) at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro. “There has been some hybrid seed production of spring canola in both PEI and New Brunswick during the last several years with different seed companies offering contracts,” he notes, “and during 2008, some hybrid seed production on PEI.”

Canola trial results
MacDonald says canola research in the Maritimes between 2004 and 2006 has included small plot variety evaluation through participation in the Ontario Spring and Winter Canola Co-op Tests. Management studies looking at nitrogen response of spring canola in a potato rotation have also been conducted.

The evaluation of yellow-seeded canola lines from AAFC in Saskatoon has been ongoing since 2004. This has included feeding studies of the whole seed and meal with poultry and aquaculture. For example, yellow-seeded canola field scale test plots were planted in Canning, Nova Scotia and Newton, Prince Edward Island, in 2008.

While MacDonald says yields from these fields, in the range of 1600 to 1800 kg/ha, are lower than what is achieved with black-seeded hybrids, they are “similar to what we have seen for the yellow-seeded lines at some sites in our small plot trials.” The advantage to the yellow-seeded canola is the higher oil content (three to five percent higher than most black-seeded hybrids in the trials) and the higher feed value of the meal due to reduced fibre levels.

The NSCDI, in co-operation with the New Brunswick Department of Agriculture and Aquaculture, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (PEI), has co-ordinated three sites for Spring Canola Ontario Co-op Tests, one in each of the Maritime provinces since 2006. The four registered varieties (45H21, 5020, 5030, 45H26) did not significantly differ for yield. Spring canola yields ranged from 1760 to 3780 kg/ha across all sites and years, with a mean yield of about 2624 kg/ha. Oil content of the spring canola varieties ranged from 46 to 49 percent. 

MacDonald says that while the winter canola survival has been variable from year to year, some very good yields have been achieved in tests at five sites since 2006. Yields have ranged from 820 to 3200 kg/ha, with the variety Kronos performing best. Oil content ranged from 47 to 50 percent.

Nitrogen response trials conducted on PEI in 2007 were carried out to determine the response of canola to nitrogen when grown within a potato rotation. “There was a significant yield response to nitrogen up to 80 kg/ha at one site, but there was no significant response at the second site except for a trend towards increased yields with increased nitrogen,” says MacDonald. “The oil content as expected decreased as the nitrogen rate increased. This trial was repeated in 2008 at one site on PEI, which did not yield well.”

Yields measured from field scale plots at the Cavendish Farms site in 2006 found that RR71-45 was the highest yielding hybrid, but only slightly higher than 5030LL.

New crushing plant under construction
About 14 hours’ drive west in Bécancour, Quebec, a new canola and soybean crushing plant is being built by Twin River Technologies (TRT). Startup is slated for fall 2009. “TRT through ‘Entreprise de transformation de graines olééagineuses du Québec’ has invested $153 million in the plant, states Statistics Canada, with the Government of Quebec providing up to $20 million in repayable financial assistance to TRT. “The company will refine canola, soybean and palm oil at the facility. The oils will be used in the food processing industry while protein meal will be used in the animal feed industry. The new plant will process approximately one million tonnes of oilseeds (600,000 tonnes of canola and 400,000 tonnes of soybean). It is expected to create 90 full time jobs and generate annual sales of $450 million.” 

Proctor, who attended a TRT presentation in Prince Edward Island in February 2009, says “The establishment of this
crushing plant significantly expands the market for Maritime growers.” TRT is seeking a start of 10,000 tonnes of canola, or canola from Maritime growers, he says, increasing eventually to 60,000 tonnes.

While MacDonald cautions that “The number of growers and acres will be dependent on what the canola price will be,” he has a positive outlook for the crop’s future in regions of Canada east of Montreal. “Due to this and other potential markets for canola,” he says, “we feel there will be a need for continuing evaluation of new canola genetics here in the Maritimes as well as more studies on production management techniques under Maritime conditions to maximize returns.”