Should I Grow Canola?

Canola is a type of rapeseed cultivated for its edible oil and high feed value.  Growing canola has many advantages. It is fairly easy to manage, and it utilizes existing farm equipment. Canola increases farm diversity, reducing overall risk. Canola is planted and harvested on a different schedule than corn and soybeans, facilitating its management.   A canola crop provides an influx of cash in early summer, helping with cash availability.  Canola can generate value-added products for rural economic activity.  There are attractive niche market opportunities for non-GMO canola, such as organic and specialty oils.  Canola is a soil builder and an excellent winter ground cover.  Canola oil is nutritious, with healthy oil properties.  The oil can also be modified for use as an environmentally friendly fuel for diesel car and trucks.  And it can be easily integrated into your farm’s cropping rotations.

Presently, canola oil occupies 7-8% of U.S. vegetable oil consumption, while it is 63% in Canada.  Demand for higher quality vegetable oil in the United States is increasing, and this trend is seen in the increased use of canola oil in food products.  In fact, the US consumption of canola oil outpaces US production 3:1 (Canola Grower, Feb 2003).   Studies also indicate that Canada is reaching its upper limits for canola production, so US farmers have an opportunity to meet the increasing demand.  Canola has been and should continue to be a profitable crop for many Michigan farmers, with prices that tend to rise and fall with soybean oil and per acre profits above wheat and about equal to corn (see Marketing below).  

So are you a good canola candidate?  Candidates for canola production generally:
  •  Have small grain planting and harvesting equipment
  •  Have no significant wild mustard weed infestations (weed seed contamination in canola harvests means discounts at the mill)
  •  Do not have non-canola rapeseed growing nearby (other rapes can cross-pollinate with canola and change its oil characteristics)
  •  Do not live in a beet-producing area (in beet areas, mosaic beet yellows could become a problem disease for canola)
  •  Have fairly well-drained soils
  •  Are able to get canola to Ontario at harvest

Do not plant canola in the following circumstances:
  • In sugar beet areas because of endemic turnip mosaic yellows virus
  • On soils where there is standing water   
  • Near rapeseed crops (can cross-pollinate and create non-zero hybrids)
  • In areas with heavy weed infestations by wild mustard-family weeds