New canola promises breakthrough

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — A canola breeder has developed a new trait that makes canola meal far more competitive with soybean meal.

Until now, canola meal has traded at a 35 percent discount to soybean meal in markets around the world because of its inferior protein levels.

Dow AgroSciences has spent the last 15 years developing a trait through conventional breeding techniques that significantly boosts canola protein levels.

“We think we can change the value from being (65) percent of soy up to the range of about 85 percent of soy,” said Dave Dzisiak, commercial leader, grains and oils, with Dow during the recent Oilseed & Grain Trade Summit.

“It really is a step change.”

He estimates 90 percent of the canola meal produced by North American crushers is sold into the California dairy market.

Dzisiak said the over-reliance on one market is unsustainable, given the Canola Council of Canada’s target to produce 26 million tonnes of the crop by 2025, which is almost double this year’s estimated output.

“This meal has to find new markets. It all can’t go to California into dairy cows. So this will open up new markets,” he said in an interview following his presentation.

“This will help keep canola really marketable.”

The market for vegetable protein continues to expand. A recent Rabobank report forecasts global demand for vegetable protein will be 37 percent higher in 2023 than it was in 2013.

Dzisiak believes Dow’s new canola meal can go head-to-head with soybean meal in hog and poultry rations.

“The feeding trials that have been done to date really demonstrate that,” he said.

And it can do so at high inclusion rates.

“Probably in swine, for sure, we can replace 100 percent of the soybean meal,” said Dzisiak.

The new canola meal has higher protein and lower fibre levels than conventional canola meal, resulting in a feed ingredient that has more digestible protein and energy.

Dzisiak was unwilling to divulge the exact new protein and fibre numbers.

The breeding process was long, arduous and full of dead-ends.

“It was not an easy process because normally when you improve protein you take away from oil, and you can’t have that,” he said.

The trait will eventually be stacked with the high oleic trait in all of Dow’s Nexera varieties. Field trials have found no yield or oil content drag in the trait.

“In the course of the next two years we’ll be able to begin to introduce this trait into the industry,” said Dzisiak.

However, the company first intends to run customer trials with major livestock feed clients to ensure there is a market for the product.

Dow has received all the regulatory approvals it needs for the new trait, and select growers have already been producing the crop.

“We’re all good to go there,” he said.

In the meantime, soybean protein levels have been dropping because breeders have been almost solely focused on yield. Farmers are paid for bushels rather than protein.

“We’re now in a situation where protein is low, and in some of the export markets it’s too low,” said John Schillenger, president of Schillenger Genetics Inc.

His company has spent the last 16 years trying to figure out how to increase protein content without sacrificing yield.

“In college classes, I was taught that in improving protein you have to accept the fact that soybean yields are going to be lower,” said Schillenger.

“We’ve broken that theorem and now have some very high yielding soybeans that are competitive in the marketplace and yet have 10 to 20 percent more protein in them than the normal commodity beans.”

Contact sean.pratt@producer.com

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