By Angela Dansby
Tips to improve canola production in three primary U.S. growing areas were shared on March 10, 2020 in Washington, D.C. with stakeholders from the U.S. Canola Association (USCA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The latter supports the development of Supplemental and Alternative Crops, such as canola, with competitive, matching grants for projects in the National Canola Research Program (NCRP).
The NCRP is a competitively funded research program designed to meet the sustainable and emerging needs of U.S. canola-growing regions. Funds from researching universities and/or regional associations are matched by NIFA for selected projects. In FY2020, the following projects were funded.
National Canola Research Program Grants FY2020
|Region||Proposal Title||Lead Institution||Investigator||Amount|
|Pacific Northwest||Improving Canola Production and Production Systems with Genetic and Agronomic Advances to Increase Canola Acreage in the PNW||University of Idaho||Jack Brown||$293,000|
|Great Plains||Development and Management of Canola in the Great Plains||Kansas State University||Mike Stamm||$293,000|
|Northern Plains||Enhancing Productivity and Profitability of Canola in North Central U.S.||North Dakota State University||Luis del Rio Mendoza||$292,830|
Cultivating cultivars adopted to both dryland and irrigated areas of the Pacific Northwest – including Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon – is a major objective of the NIFA project, reports Jack Brown, Ph.D., canola breeder at the University of Idaho. Two new cultivars were released, including ‘Chinook’ winter canola in 2019 and ‘Monarch’ spring high-oleic canola in 2020. Targeted traits include blackleg resistance and cold and drought tolerance.
Blackleg was discovered in Idaho in 2011 in Boundary County and since then it has spread to an estimated 89 percent of canola fields, according to research. But 14 blackleg resistance genes have been identified in canola that can help protect the crop.
Pacific Northwest variety trials indicate which areas are best suited to growing canola. This has led to increases in production; for example, regional spring canola yields have gone up 10-fold, says Brown. In fact, the Pacific Northwest has the highest yielding canola in the United States.
“There are lots of ecosystems so variety trials are important in order for farmers to know what to plant,” says Brown.
Crop rotations were also examined in 2019 in two studies in Idaho and one in Washington. After four years of data, winter canola followed by winter wheat was deemed the best in terms of production and environmental benefits. Water infiltration is enhanced, for example, with canola in a rotation, Brown notes.
Developing and evaluating high-yielding and regionally adapted winter canola cultivars, improving canola cropping systems, and delivering new technologies and practices to growers are NIFA project priorities in the Great Plains, notes Mike Stamm, M.S., canola breeder at Kansas State University (KSU). This project includes the states of Oklahoma, Kansas but also Texas, Colorado, Nebraska and New Mexico.
Priority traits for breeding include winter survival, higher yield, improved oil quality and quantity, blackleg disease resistance, and tolerance to sulfonylurea herbicide carryover and post-emergence applications of glyphosate herbicide. Hybrid parent lines are also being developed; KSU is the sole developer of TruFlexTM winter canola parent lines for top weed management. In fact, KSU genetics have resulted in 40,000 acres of winter canola for the past four years.
KSU’s National Winter Canola Variety Trials involving 29 cooperators to evaluate cultivars nationwide are ongoing. Variety performance looks at yield, winter survival, moisture, oil, protein and plant health. Lodging (bending over of plant stems), for example, is a problem that must be addressed in all varieties, Stamm notes.
Canola cropping systems can be improved by addressing agronomic issues, input management and integrated pest management strategies. Current studies are examining on-farm crop establishment practices; seeding rate by variety; weed management; crop rotation, specifically double cropping after canola and herbicide carryover restrictions; and environmental variables on winter canola survival.
Developing germplasm that enhances canola production, identifying better agronomic practices and more efficient pest management strategies, and delivering knowledge to canola growers via extension activities are the objectives of research in the Northern Plains, reports Luis del Rio, Ph.D., canola pathologist at North Dakota State University. This is primarily in North Dakota, where most U.S. canola is grown, but also South Dakota, Minnesota and eastern Montana.
A set of 150 canola accessions – groups of related plant material from a single species collected at various times from different countries and locations – were acquired from the USDA seed bank in Ames, Iowa and evaluated for high yield and oil content in 2019. Characterization of these lines will be repeated this year to ensure quality. Data from these trials will then be used with genetic information from the accessions to identify markers associated with high yield and oil content. In addition, elite lines have been crossed to generate variability and superior lines will be selected for release.
Tolerance of canola to sulfentrazone herbicide was also evaluated in trials from multiple locations, Del Rio says. Results showed that sulfentrazone is not an alternative to manage glyphosate-resistant weeds because it would reduce canola yields significantly.
Clubroot resistance genes in spring canola are urgently needed based on the prevalence of clubroot in North Dakota. A survey of 133 fields (100 plants per field) showed that 8 percent tested positive for clubroot. The infested fields were located in Cavalier County and had a soil pH of 4.7 to 6.7. Statewide, 16 percent of fields had clubroot DNA and a pH of 5.3 to 7.6, confirming clubroot’s love of acidic soil. As a result, 123 accessions were evaluated last year for resistance to clubroot in field trials at Langdon, N.D., and promising materials were identified. Results are currently being validated and another set of 120 accessions will be evaluated in 2020.
Research in South Dakota and Montana looked at seed singulation (row spacing and seeding rates), effect of planting density on yield, salinity tolerance and impact of micronutrients. The latter showed that copper fertilizer increased total oil production.
Thanks to Congress appropriating $1 million in FY2020 for the NCRP, multiple regional studies were carried out. But much more is needed to understand how to maximize canola production in the United States, which imports far more canola than it produces to meet domestic demand.
U.S. canola oil consumption more than quadrupled from 2003 to 2019 – from 4.5 to 17.2 pounds per capita – as consumers value the oil’s heart-healthy attributes. However, national canola production has not kept pace with increasing consumption rates; the 2 million acres of U.S.- planted canola in 2019 only supplied 31 percent of demand. As a result, the USCA is calling for $2 million in funding for competitive grants from NIFA in FY2021 to try to increase domestic production.
Angela Dansby is director of communications for the U.S. Canola Association.