Canola acres increase

Canola grows in a field in Oregon. Lower prices for competing commodities and weed pressures have contributed to an increase in canola acreage across the Northwest.

Farmers in the Northwest planted more acres of canola this year than in 2019, according to the regional growers association.

Karen Sowers, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Canola Association, pointed to initial estimates from the USDA Farm Service Agency.

Washington is at roughly 79,200 acres. Montana is at nearly 145,000 acres. Both states’ acreage has increased 15% to 18%, she said.

Idaho is at nearly 46,500 acres, an increase of at least 10%, Sowers said.

Oregon is at 3,820 acres, an increase of about 4% to 5%, she said.

The total for the four states is nearly 275,000 acres. Canola is grown in 27 states, ranging from just a few acres in some states to 1.5 million acres in North Dakota, according to the association.

Sowers attributes the increase in acreage to lower prices of competing commodities, such as peas, lentils, chickpeas and wheat.

On the Palouse, Italian rye, a grassy weed, means farmers must turn to Roundup, and Roundup Ready canola is available, she said.

More farmers are becoming aware of the benefits of planting canola in rotation with their wheat and barley, she said.

“I think the word’s out,” she said.

Roughly 95% to 100% of the canola in Washington and Idaho is processed at the Viterra facility in Warden, Wash., she said.

“Having local processors is a huge piece of the puzzle,” she said.

After a dry fall across the region, Sowers is interested in the effect on winter acres.

Washington acres are 63% spring and 37% winter. Idaho acres are 73% spring and 27% winter, she said.

Oregon is about 58% winter and 42% spring canola.

Interest in winter canola in Montana is increasing as varieties become more winter hardy and shatter-proof. About 10% of Montana acres are devoted to winter, Sowers said.

In Washington’s Douglas County, about 1,000 canola acres were impacted by fires in September, she said.

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