Making a Case for Winter Canola

With low grain prices and a declining wheat acreage, Guy Swanson believes winter canola could replace a considerable amount of the winter wheat grown in the western U.S. The result could be higher incomes for no-tillers, bonus opportunities for turning out a high-quality product and a dramatic reduction in soil erosion.

The head of Exactrix Systems in Spokane, Wash., Swanson says a properly fertilized winter canola crop should gross around $290 with a cash outlay of only $90-$120 per acre. There’s growing demand for the crop, as U.S. food and fuel processors buy over $700 million of Canadian-grown canola oil, seed and meal each year. 

In Canada, canola is grown on 16 million acres, while the U.S. acreage stands at only 1.7 million acres. As canola production continues to increase in the western Canada prairies, so does the percentage of the crop grown with no-till.

Trim Erosion Losses

Swanson says replacing 2 million acres of U.S. winter wheat with no-tilled winter canola could trim soil losses by at least 10 times the amount that occurs with growing winter wheat. As an example, he maintains that winter wheat is responsible for 90% of the soil erosion that takes place in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. This represents 1,500 pounds of lost topsoil for every bushel of exported wheat from the area.

“When properly implemented, no-tilling Roundup Ready winter canola drops soil erosion levels well below the expectations of any other cropping system,” he says. “Winter canola also offers better returns than winter…

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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