Canola continues to shine
LANGDON, N.D. -- Bryan Hanson remembers when canola was a little-known Canadian import. He remembers research in the 1980s at the Langdon (N.D.) Research Extension Center, where he works, that investigated whether the crop could play a useful rol...
LANGDON, N.D. - Bryan Hanson remembers when canola was a little-known Canadian import. He remembers research in the 1980s at the Langdon (N.D.) Research Extension Center, where he works, that investigated whether the crop could play a useful role in northern North Dakota. And he remembers watching canola production soar in the state in the 1990s, when North Dakota became the nation’s dominant producer.
But he and other canola industry officials aren’t resting on past success.
“There’s always more work to do,” said Hanson, a research agronomist.
Hanson was among the speakers at the 19th annual Canola Expo Dec. 8 in Langdon. About 300 people, mostly farmers or agribusiness people with ties to canola or the Langdon area, attended.
Among the attendees: Scott Anderson, a seed sales specialist with Cibus, which describes itself as “the leader in precision gene editing in agriculture,” who staffed an exhibit booth at the expo. He was promoting what his company calls “a new non transgenic canola system” that it says provides a “sound stewardship option to help combat glyphosate resistant weeds.”
Cavalier County, in which Langdon is located, leads the U.S. in production of canola, a cool-season crop that fares best in northern climates. Most farmers in the Langdon area rotate wheat and canola on their fields, occasionally mixing in crops such as soybeans, sunflowers, flax or barley. In the summer, many fields around Langdon are bright with the vivid yellow of flowering canola.
The crop is grown elsewhere in the state, too and also enjoys growing popularity in northwest Minnesota.
Jon Wert, who farms near New England, N.D., in the southwest corner of the state, is president of the Northern Canola Growers Association, which hosted the Langdon event.
He says canola, which he began raising on his farm in the 1990s, is a good fit in the rotation.
Canola basics Though canola has become a staple in North Dakota, especially in the northern part of the state, many people still don’t know much about it.
Canola oil is used for baking and frying, and as an ingredient in salad dressings, margarine and various other products. It appeals to health-conscious consumers because it's low in saturated fats and free of artificial trans-fats, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.
Canola seeds, similar in size to poppy seeds, are crushed to produce oil and meal. Annual consumption of canola oil in the U.S. rose from about 700 million pounds in 1991 to about 2.8 billion pounds in 2009, according to the Economic Research Service.
Canola meal typically is fed to livestock.
North of the border Canadian researchers first developed canola - a contraction of “Canadian oil, low acid,”
or canola - and the country remains the world’s leading producer and exporter of canola.
In early December, Stats Can released revised figures that put 2015 Canadian canola production much higher than the organization estimated previously.
There’s speculation that Stat Can’s credibility in the canola industry may be hurt because its latest estimate rose so much, said Barry Coleman, executive director of the Northern Canola Growers Association.
The North Dakota-dominated U.S. canola industry enjoyed tremendous yields in 2015, which will encourage producers to grow it in 2016, he said.
Hanson said ongoing canola research seeks, among other things, to hold down input costs by using fewer feeds and seeding more precisely.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve,” he said. “I think it’s exciting.”