Canola is a productive crop commonly grown in regions outside the Midwestern Corn Belt for its high-quality, edible oil. The oilseed is traded in global commodity markets and its price has seen significant increases during the last decade, primarily due to a steady domestic demand for vegetable oil and strengthening international demand for Canadian canola (1). Findings from our field studies indicate that winter varieties of canola planted in early fall in Iowa (mid-August to early-Sept) have the potential to overwinter and be harvested in mid-July (2). For producers who wish to incorporate alternative crops into their rotation, winter canola may be a good candidate following spring grains (e.g. oats, spring wheat) in a rotation. Yields of winter canola in the U.S. typically range between 0 and 3,600 lb per acre (10 percent moisture) averaging at about 1,900 lb per acre (3).
Canola can be seeded using a small-grain drill (4) or conventional row crop planters with row spacing of 15-30 inches, although decreases in yield from 0-10 percent have been observed for wide row spacing (5). Canola typically uses less nitrogen (N) than corn, and slightly more than wheat. Additionally, split N applications are recommended with about 30-50 percent applied at pre-planting, and the balance top-dressed in the spring. The crop can be harvested by direct combining using a “draper” header, although shattering can cause yield losses. Alternatively, the crop can be swathed and then harvested. Swathing helps to speed up dry down and reduces losses due to windstorms and hail.
Winter canola is not a grass or legume (canola is in the Brassica family) and it has a winter annual growing cycle. Thus, including this crop in an Iowa rotation could provide more flexible opportunities to rotate herbicide chemistry and pest control strategies. Moreover, some evidence suggests that Brassica species produce chemical compounds that have the potential to control some soil-borne pests and even some weeds (6). Additionally, the winter canola canopy may help to protect soil from erosion during the winter months, and roots can actively take up nutrients, preventing their loss into waterways.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
Agricultural Economics | Food Processing
Martinez-Feria, Rafael A.; Jacobs, Keri; and Wiedenhoeft, Mary H., "Estimated Costs of Production for Winter Canola in Iowa" (2016). Ag Decision Maker Information Files. 2.