Standing in the middle of a seemingly endless field of beautiful, bright yellow flowering canola, Dillon, S.C., grower Daniel Coleman says the new crop is proving to be a good fit into his family’s farming operation.

Coleman is among a growing cadre of South Carolina growers, most in the PeeDee region of the state, who have begun growing canola for Hart AgStrong, a Bowersville, Ga.,-based canola oil processing facility.

He says the crop fits in well with other grain crops grown in the family farming operation headquartered near Florence, S.C. The plan, he says, is to grow canola behind corn, double-crop the canola with soybeans, grow wheat double-cropped with soybeans and then come back to corn.

In recent years he says soybean yields have held fairly stable at 40-plus bushels per acre. “Last year was a near perfect year for wheat and beans. We stayed on top of our double-crop beans and were able to get our canola planted by mid-October and our wheat planted prior to Thanksgiving,” he explains.

Growing canola in the Southeast is a steep learning curve at best, but the young South Carolina grower says he has some excellent help from outside sources.

“The main go-to guy for us on canola is Brian Caldbeck, who works with Rubisco Seed Company in Kentucky. We planted three of their hybrid canola varieties, and Brian was here in person or looking at pictures I sent him all the time during the growing season,” Coleman says.

He also got plenty of help from Mike Garland, who is crop development manager with Hart AgStrong. “Mike was riding with me in the combine when we cut our canola last year and pointed out some of the high yields we were getting in parts of different fields,” Coleman explains.

“We averaged about 60 bushels per acre in the extremely hot and dry spring of 2012, which is about what most of the canola growers in this area averaged, but it was clear to see the potential of what we could grow, if we got everything right,” he adds.

Garland says one of the side benefits of growing canola is improved soil structure, which should result in increased soybean yields in fields grown behind canola