By MITCH LIES
SALEM --The Oregon Legislature's Emergency Board has deferred to the 2013 Legislature a request that lawmakers put $446,040 into canola research.
The request, from the Oregon Department of Agriculture, is for lawmakers to fund the research through Oregon State University.
If funded, OSU likely will hire a post-doctoral professional to conduct the research, according to Russ Karow, head of the College of Agricultural Sciences crop and soil science department.
Through the research, department officials hope to answer, among other questions, if cross pollination among canola and other brassica crops is a concern, if volunteer plants can be managed in fields previously planted to canola, and if off-field movement of canola is a problem.
The funding would be distributed over three years.
"Three years of research is required to produce outcomes that can further address many of the unanswered questions regarding co-existence of brassica crops in the (Willamette) Valley," ODA Director Katy Coba wrote in ODA's request to the E-board.
Canola is part of the brassica family, a family of broadleaf crops that includes cauliflower and broccoli. It is grown for edible oil, industrial grade oil, including biodiesel, and seed.
ODA currently bans canola production in the vast majority of the Willamette Valley.
Some grass seed growers have said they wish to grow canola in the valley as a rotation crop to break weed and disease cycles.
"Growers have found that canola is a good alternative as it produces high yields with minimal inputs and can be grown with the same equipment used in grass seed production," Coba wrote to lawmakers. The crop is also easily marketable, she wrote, and, according to Karow, can be grown economically.
"The unknown ... is how much value do you attribute to the ability to control grassy weeds," Karow said. "In some situations, that could be a huge value.
"Also," Karow said, "the crop is competitive with lower priced grass seed crops."
OSU conducted two years of research on canola production in the valley in 2008-09, but generated only preliminary data.
"The general conclusion was if you grew a canola field and followed it with a grass or grain crop, where you were using standard herbicide practices, the odds of having a huge canola volunteer problem would seem to be limited," Karow said. "We didn't see significant build-up in seed banks.
"The counterpoint to that is everyone was watching," Karow said. "These fields were getting special treatment."
The state currently bans canola production in the vast majority of the Willamette Valley to protect a lucrative specialty seed industry that depends on seed purity to maintain contracts.
Most specialty seed growers support a ban on canola production in the valley.