By Anna Scharf
The 2017 canola harvest in the Willamette Valley will be remembered as cold and wet – not ideal canola-growing conditions. But for regional canola growers, such conditions represent an important opportunity to grow a beneficial rotation crop.
In the Willamette Valley, canola acreage remains restricted to 500 acres until the 2019 harvest. This year, 499 acres were allocated, but unfortunately, 75 of those acres never made it to harvest due to weather. The acres that did mature brought in 565 tons to the local processor and allowed two new growers the opportunity to add canola to their rotation. While not a record harvest, growers see the potential long-term benefits of growing canola as well as the price versus wheat or other rotational crops.
Pinning for the restricted 500 acres for the 2018 harvest has been completed. Oregon State University (OSU), the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), Willamette Valley Specialty Seed Association (WVSSA) and Willamette Valley Oilseed Association met several times to determine acreage allocation and pinned them on the WVSSA map. Thirteen growers applied and requested over 1,100 acres, but many others choose not to apply or limited their requests due to the constraint on acres.
Influential Activities Ahead
The laws restricting canola production in the Willamette Valley will sunset July 1, 2019. Between now and then, there is an OSU research report due, ODA recommendations and two legislative sessions.
The OSU research report is due by Nov. 1. In that report, OSU will make recommendations regarding whether–and under what conditions–canola growing in the Willamette Valley protected district is compatible with other crops. The report must compare the compatibility of canola and other Brassica crops with non-Brassica and (mainly vegetable) crops. It must be reviewed by experts with sufficient knowledge of vegetable seed production and will include published materials and historical data on canola and Brassica specialty seed production from northern France, England and New Zealand. It will also include a review of how western Washington, western Idaho, and central and eastern Oregon manage canola for seed production.
After that, ODA will develop recommendations for the coexistence of canola and other agricultural crops by Nov. 15, 2018. The recommendations are supposed to include–but not limited to–means for providing adequate protections to maintain the specialty seed industry in this state.
Needless to say, how much canola will be grown in the Willamette Valley after July 1, 2019 remains to be determined.
Anna Scharf helps run her family farm, Scharf Farms, in Perrydale, Ore., and is a board member of the Willamette Valley Oil Seed Producers Association and U.S. Canola Association.