National Canola Research Conference Serves Up "Spicy" Topics

Posted: 11/29/2018

By Angela Dansby

From proof of health benefits to reports on canola production in Canada, Australia and Brazil to ways to improve growing canola in various U.S. regions, the 5th National Canola Research Conference (NCRC) “planted” great facts and stats in Baltimore, Md., Nov. 5-6, 2018. It was held again in conjunction with the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) Annual Meetings. Here’s a round-up of some presentations:


An animal study showed that rodents had less weight gain with canola oil, high-oleic canola oil and a canola-flaxseed oil blend compared to the control, noted Dr. Carla Taylor of St. Boniface Hospital Research in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The common denominator in these oils is high monounsaturated fat, which researchers suspect may cause greater calorie burn. Another animal study Taylor worked on suggests that omega-3 fat in canola oil decreases the size of fat cells and inflammation.

Canola oil is shown in studies to reduce total and bad LDL cholesterol when used in place of saturated fat but this effect is most significant in people with healthy blood vessels, noted Dr. Peter Zahradka of St. Boniface Hospital Research. That’s because flexible arteries respond better to healthy dietary fat intake. 

In two human clinical trials with canola oil, monounsaturated fat appeared to “turn up the body’s thermostat,” noted Dr. Peter Jones of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. This resulted in loss of belly fat, particularly in people genetically predisposed to faster metabolism. One trial also found that canola oil fortified with DHA significantly increased good HDL cholesterol and decreased triglycerides.

Canola Around the World 

Canola Council of Canada Agronomist Clint Jurke noted that 2017 marked the first year that more canola was grown than wheat in Canada.‬ This is largely due to canola replacing summer fallow, which is environmentally beneficial. But he noted that clubroot disease is of growing concern in Canada, even though it’s not (yet) the greatest yield robber. The 3,000 known fields with clubroot are “just a fraction of disease documentation.”

“Wheat grows really well after canola,” noted John Kirkegaard of CSIRO in Canberra, Australia. This rotation as well as dual purpose canola (grain and graze) add to growers’ profits. Australia produces about 5 million tonnes of canola on 2.5 million hectares annually. But that’s only 42-68% of its crop yield potential, Kirkegaard said. Australia is the number 2 exporter of canola products in the world after Canada.

Brazil also has the potential to grow a lot more canola, noted Dr. Gilberto Tomm of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA). Its current 59,000 hectares could go up to 8.3 million! The country’s humid, subtropical area is most suitable for canola production.


The “spicy” topic in North Dakota canola country these days is clubroot, which is “very alarming and threatening in our area,” noted Dr. Venkat Chapara of North Dakota State University. Cavalier County is most affected now but it's moving to six other counties: Towner, Pembina, Walsh, Rolette, Ramsey and Nelson. There are also six races of clubroot in Canada. This disease can live in soil for up to 20 years and it likes acidic soils (low pH). “While some good clubroot-resistant canola varieties are available, more research on products such as beet lime need to be urgently done under field conditions along with pathogen race typing,” Chapara noted.

"The spicy topic for canola in the Great Plains is oil content," reported NCRC organizer Mike Stamm of Kansas State University. Oil content is impacted by heat stress and drought so he is researching these factors.

“Dryland in Washington is dominated by wheat and canola can improve wheat production,” noted Isaac Madsen of Washington State University. But stand establishment is an issue so he recommends canola growers use fertilizer at the “right rate, right place, right source and right time.”‬

Currently, 83 percent of U.S. canola is grown in North Dakota, where there are 5,000 research plots alone, noted Dr. Mukhlesur Rahman of North Dakota State University. Research is focused on high seed yield, oil content, disease resistance and good root systems. ‬

Missed the NCRC this year? Plan on autumn 2022 for the next one. The NCRC is made possible by the U.S. Canola Association, canola industry sponsors, and the ASA-CSSA.

Angela Dansby is director of communications for the U.S. Canola Association. 

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