WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the availability of up to $766,000 for fundamental and applied research to help develop and share new commercial canola varieties and products, and expand the crop’s growing regions. This funding is made available through NIFA’s Supplemental and Alternative Crops Competitive (SACC) grants program.
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Not long after joining the Washington Oilseed Cropping Systems (WOCS) project at Washington State University 10 years ago, I had the good fortune of meeting a farmer in eastern Washington who had been growing canola for more than 20 years. This farmer told me about an effort in the mid-90s – when production was finally gaining some steam – to create a Pacific Northwest (PNW) canola and rapeseed association. However, that effort ‘faded away’after several years. The idea resurfaced five years ago, but again, did not go anywhere. All the while, acreage in the PNW continued an upward trend.
Don’t look now, but more yellow flowers may be popping up across Kansas, and they are not of the sunflower variety, which is the official state flower.
Based on the number of phone calls and emails I received this summer, I fully expect winter canola acres to rebound substantially for the 2017 crop year. Many producers said the price of wheat led them to their decision to plant canola, but I quickly reminded them that there are many benefits to rotating to canola including greater wheat yields, better weed control options and growing consumer demand for the oil.
The 2016 canola harvest has all but wrapped up in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and it was another good year – fields averaged 3,000 pounds per acre and one grower exceeded 5,000 pounds per acre. But more importantly, it was another year of successful rotational crops for Willamette Valley farmers.
Interest in canola as a rotation crop in the cereal-dominated cropping systems of the Pacific Northwest continues to increase, particularly with depressed wheat prices, and with steady demand from the Pacific Coast Canola processing facility in Warden, Wash. The Crucifer Quarantine enacted last fall, however, has prompted many questions and requests for advice about blackleg from growers and industry. In response to concerns, faculty at the Washington State University-based Washington Oilseed Cropping Systems Project developed a handout to distribute at field tours. The guide includes concise information about the current status of blackleg in Washington, the Crucifer Quarantine requirements, scouting for blackleg, and photos of blackleg symptoms from fields in Idaho and Oregon.
While many policy matters are on idle as we enter the heat of summer and this election year, biodiesel policy issues are not slowing down.
On May 27, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the proposed rule for the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volume requirements, including the volume requirements for biomass-based diesel for 2018 and the total advanced biofuels volumes for 2017 and 2018.
Canola research is more important than ever to the crop’s future. With this in mind, the Northern Canola Growers Association (NCGA) has awarded $220,000 so far in 2016 to help fund nine studies. Projects this year address disease identification and control in canola, primarily blackleg and sclerotinia. Additional research seeks to decrease production costs, increase quality of canola and identify end-use applications.