SERA040: Coordination of Winter Canola Research Programs in the Southern Region
Statement of Issues and JustificationCanola (Brassica napus) is a major oilseed crop worldwide. The domestic demand for canola oil has been increasing rapidly, with most of the demand being met by imports. Of the 1,898 million pounds of canola oil dispersed domestically in the U.S. in 2005-2006, 1,604 million pounds were imported primarily from Canada. Canola oil domestic dispersion has increased from 795 million pounds in 1991-1992 to an estimated 2,084 million pounds in 2006-2007 (Oil Crops Yearbook, 2007). With oil content representing approximately 40% of seed weight and an average production of 1,500 pounds per acre, about 2.7 million acres of canola would be required to replace the oil imported into the U.S. Furthermore, the canola planting in the U.S. may decrease by 15% to 1 million acres according to the USDA (Oil Crops Outlook, 2008), further increasing domestic demand on imports. In 2006, the FDA authorized a qualified health claim for canola oil consumption based on its ability to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to its unsaturated fat content. This claim has bolstered demand for canola oil as several U.S. restaurants and other food service entities have publicly announced their current or planned use of canola oil as a trans fat-free, low saturated fat cooking oil (U.S. Canola Association website). Potential exists for a dramatic increase in planted canola acres the non-traditional growing regions such as the southern region to meet the domestic demand.
Since the approval of canola oil for sale in the U.S. in 1985, considerable interest in growing canola as a winter crop in the southern region has existed. The southern region has a number of advantages for canola production including mild temperatures and adequate rainfall favorable for winter production, presence of existing cottonseed crush facilities, access to export facilities, and potential for double cropping. Winter canola, which produces higher grain yields than spring canola, is not widely grown in Canada or North Dakota, areas unable to overcome the problem of winter survival. Nevertheless, winter types are preferred over spring types in the southern region. Spring types flower approximately 1 month later than winter types, but are harvested only 2 weeks later because summer heat imposes maturity. This reduced seed-filling period greatly lowers the yield potential of spring types (Boyles et al., 2006). The southern region also has a marketing advantage over spring canola growing regions. Winter canola is marketed during the summer, the time period when little canola grain is on the market and prices are typically high.
Winter varieties of canola are planted in late summer and the plants over-winter as rosettes. Bolting and flowering are initiated in early spring after winter dormancy. The grain ripens and is harvested about the same time as wheat in the late spring. Seed yields of winter canola entries in the National Winter Canola Variety Trial have been variable across the southern Great Plains, ranging from 500 to 3,500 kg/ha in 2006 (Stamm et al., 2006). Low yields generally have been attributed to winterkill or poor stand establishment. Cultivars differ genetically in their ability to survive the winter because of either a reduced level of hardiness or differences in hardening requirements. Environmental factors and crop management also play significant roles in the ability of canola to survive the winter. Grain yield potential for winter canola grown in the southern region is greater than spring canola in the northern U.S. However, the southern region still lacks adequate information on adapted varieties, effective pest control measures, and agronomic production for winter canola.
Many challenges exist for crop production in the southern region. While a large number of crops are grown, few are well adapted to the extremes of moisture and temperature. Low rainfall, particularly in late summer and fall, high temperatures, and high evaporative demand make the climate difficult for the dryland production of 'traditional' summer annual crops such as corn and soybeans. Farmers are searching for a reliable, winter broadleaf crop that can be grown in rotation with winter wheat, corn, soybeans, or sorghum to enhance yield from rotation effects. These effects include interrupted disease and pest cycles and improved weed control. Winter canola has the potential to make a significant impact on agriculture in the southern region, since it is a broadleaf, has a growth period similar to winter wheat, and is adapted, or adaptable, to the region. Canola also fits well into the region because the same equipment used for wheat production can be used for canola, thus minimizing the initial investment of growers for new equipment. In the recent past, local marketing options were nonexistent for canola producers in the southern region. Today, in some parts of the south, local markets have been established, which make selling the grain easier for producers. New local markets create considerable potential for expanding canola production across the southern region. Canola planted acres in Oklahoma and Kansas had not exceeded 25,000 acres until 2004-2005. Since then, 70,000 acres were planted in 2005-2006 and 35,000 acres were planted in 2006-2007. Record drought conditions contributed to this reduction in planted acres. Acres have rebounded to 45,000 for 2007-2008 in Kansas and Oklahoma combined. Realistic estimates of potential acres range from 250,000 to 500,000 acres. In addition to the agronomic benefits of canola, the use of canola oil as a biodiesel feedstock, record high vegetable oil prices and consumer demand, and high commodity grain prices have greatly increased interest in growing canola in the southern region. Variety development has seen significant progress as 19 winter canola varieties and hybrids from various suppliers are currently available for commercial production. Production management questions such as no-till seeding and proper fertilizer use are being addressed by universities and public entities regionally. Pest control systems such as turnip aphid economic thresholds and scouting protocols have been established for winter canola. Researcher and extension personnel desire an information exchange to coordinate activities and programs directed toward canola production in the southern region. Development of an Information Exchange Group is essential to continue this rapid progress.
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