'There is no lack of demand' for canola, proponent says
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Karen Sowers keeps hearing from farmers about how much money they're making with oilseed crops.
"More than ever, I've heard from more growers who said, 'I've made more money off of my canola than my wheat,'" said Sowers, a Washington State University research associate.
Sowers will help farmers find out more about the crops and their benefits during the WSU Oilseed Production and Marketing Conference Jan. 22-23 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, Wash. Registration is open for the event.
Interest is coming from a broader region than years past, including the Willamette Valley, the Camas Prairie, Bonners Ferry regions and even Argentina. That includes enthusiasm for products like biodiesel, oilseed meal and edible oil, Sowers said.
"People call oilseeds an opportunity crop," Sowers said.
She attributes the surge in interest to the higher price of canola, mustard and other oilseeds.
Pacific Coast Canola's seed-to-oil processing plant in Warden, Wash., comes on board in early 2013, Sowers said.
"There is no lack of demand for the market," she said, noting canola is priced at 27 cents per pound.
It's also due to the benefits of the crops in rotation, such as increased water infiltration or higher yields in the following cereal crops.
"You can't really put a number on some of the benefits," she said. "Improved weed control is a trickle-down, when the next year you can use either a different formulation or less of a certain chemical, because that certain weed is not there any more."
Plant-back restrictions from previous herbicide use remain a hurdle for oilseeds, Sowers said.
Studies of livestock rations indicate oilseed feeds are high quality. One farmer has been grazing sheep on canola.
The two-day conference includes four keynote speakers. Gary Hergert from the University of Nebraska-Scottsbluff will talk about raising canola and camelina in dry areas.
Other speakers include Kansas canola and cattle producer Bob Schrock, Great Plains Canola Commission and Oklahoma Oilseed Commission executive director Ron Sholar and Canadian canola expert Phil Thomas, author of a guide for canola producers.
Breakout sessions will be region-specific by rainfall zone or irrigation.
"Oilseeds may not be a good fit for a crop rotation, depending on where you are, but they are crops that should be considered," Sowers said.