North Dakota farmers give canola thumbs up as yield grows

Canola growers in North Dakota are more enthused about the crop these days, thanks to strong yields over the last few years.

Many farmers are now getting yields of 40 bushels per acre and higher, so the positive vibe around canola should increase acres this spring, said Barry Coleman, executive director of the Northern Canola Growers Association.

North Dakota acreage is expected to hit 1.45 million, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates. That’s up from 1.4 million in 2015 and 1.2 million in 2013.

Canola advocates in the state were worried about acreage decline a few years ago as producers in the traditional canola regions of northeastern and north-central North Dakota were switching to soybeans.

The state had 4.1 million soybean acres in 2010 and 5.9 million last year. Beans stole most of those acres from spring wheat, but a number of growers near the Canadian border are choosing soy over canola.

“We know down here that soybeans are definitely on the increase,” said Brian Jenks, a weed scientist with North Dakota State University.

“They are moving north and moving west. They may potentially replace a lot of canola acres.”

That trend may be waning because canola yields are creeping up.

“A lot of growers have had very good canola crops the last few years … well over a ton yield (40 bushels per acre),” Coleman said. “It (acreage) has stabilized because we’re at near record canola acres.”

The Canola Council of Canada has made yield a priority, setting a goal of 52 bushels per acre for Canada by 2025. Similarly, Northern Canola Growers hopes to achieve 2,500 pounds per acre (50 bushels) by 2025.

The popularity of shatter resistant canola is also reviving interest in the crop. Ryan Pederson, who farms near Rolette, N.D., said growers who don’t own a swather may look at canola again because they can straight combine varieties with the shatter resistance trait.

North Dakota canola production:

  • In 2015, the average canola yield in North Dakota was 1,870 pounds per acre, or 37.4 bushels per acre.
  • The United States set a canola production record in 2015 of 62 million bushels.
  • North Dakota growers are expected to seed 1.45 million acres of canola this spring. All other states will likely seed 300,000 acres.

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