WHAT IS CANOLA?
Canola is a member of the Crucifarea family. This family includes
broccoli, cabbage and mustard seed. It grows 1 to 1.5m high and has
a seed pod with 15 to 40 small round seeds. The seeds have a high
percentage of oil and, therefore, canola is classed as a type of
oilseed. There are two types of canola, the short growing season
Polish type (Brassica rapa/campestris) and the longer
season Argentine type (Brassica napus). Both types are
grown in BC.
WHERE IS CANOLA PRODUCED IN BC?
Canola is grown in the Peace area in BC with an occasional field
grown elsewhere in the province. It is a cool season crop adapted to
areas where cool night temperatures allow it to recover from hot
days and dry weather.
HOW MUCH CANOLA DO WE PRODUCE?
98% of the oilseeds produced in BC is canola. BC grows 43,000 tonnes, which is less than 1% of the Canadian production.
HOW IS CANOLA PRODUCED?
Canola is grown in a process that is similar to the growing of
grains. Fields are cultivated as required, seeded, fertilized and
pesticides are applied to control insects, weeds and diseases.
Seedlings emerge 4 to 10 days after planting. The bottom leaves are
produced in a rosette and the plant sends up a flower stalk when the
days lengthen. Flowering lasts 14 to 21 days. The fields at this
time are a brilliant mass of yellow blossoms. The flowers of the
Polish type are fertilized by the wind and the Argentine type is
self pollinated. However, bees visit the flowers for nectar to
produce honey and also carry pollen. Once the flowers are
fertilized, pods form and take 35 to 45 days to fill. The field is
swathed when about one-third to one-half of the seeds have turned
colour from green to yellow or brown. The swathed crop is allowed to
dry for about 10 days and then combined. Alternatively, the crop can
be dessicated or dried down in the field using herbicides or
straight cut without the need of swathing.
WHAT DOES CANOLA LOOK LIKE WHEN I USE IT?
Canola is pressed and the oil is used for cooking and salad oils
or processed into margarine. Canola is 42.45% oil and 23% protein.
It contains mono and polyunsaturated fats which is not the type of
fat associated with heart disease. Canola oil has the lowest level
of saturated fats of the available vegetable oils at 6 to 7%. It has
won health and nutrition awards because of its low saturates and
balance of fatty acids.
The meal that is left over after pressing the canola is used as a
high protein feed supplement for livestock.
Trials are underway to use canola as a diesel fuel, a hydraulic
oil and as a biodegradable chain saw oil.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE CANOLA LEAVES THE FARM?
About half of the BC production of canola is trucked to the
nearest processor where it is crushed for oil. This plant is located
in the Alberta Peace region at Sexsmith. The balance of production
is moved by rail to Vancouver where it is loaded on ships mostly
destined for Japan, but some also goes to Korea and Mexico.
WHAT CHALLENGES DO CANOLA PRODUCERS FACE?
Since canola seed is very fine (less than 1 mm in diameter), it
must be planted shallow. It takes especially good seedbed
preparation to not dry out the surface of the soil so the seed can
germinate. Canola is subject to attack from several diseases and
insects. To reduce the impact of these, farmers are advised to grow
canola only one year in four on the same field. Seed treatment is
used to reduce seedling disease and early flea beetle attack.
Herbicides are used to control competition from weeds. The economics
of growing canola versus grain are at present such that farmers are
shortening rotations and increasing the risk of disease. Plant
breeders are working to produce varieties which have tolerance to
the major diseases.
WHO'S INVOLVED IN PRODUCING CANOLA?
- Canola farmer
- Seed growers
- Farm implement dealers and mechanics
- Pesticide dealers
- Fertilizer dealers
- Airplane pilots for aerial spraying
- Grain inspectors
- Truckers, railway workers
- Oil processors and refiners
- Chemists at crushing plants and with Canada Grain Commission
- Ship crew members
- Dock workers
Interesting Fact About Canola:
Canola was developed after World War II by Canadian plant
breeding programs. Canola is a variety of rapeseed. Rapeseed,
however, contains high levels of erucic acid, which is associated
with heart lesions in tests done with animals, and the meal
portion contains sulphur compounds which restricted its use as an
animal protein supplement. This led to the development of canola
which has low levels of both components. The first canola variety
was released in 1974. Since that time, canola has become a major
Canadian crop. The dollar value of canola is exceeding that of
wheat for the first time in since 1994. Rapeseed oil was used as a
lamp and cooking oil by ancient civilizations in Asia and Europe.
With the development of the steam engine, it was found to cling to
steam-washed surfaces better than any other lubricant.
- Contacts and other resources:
- BCMAL -
Grain and Oilseed Information
- Canola Council of
- Canada Grain Commission