Global canola production has grown rapidly over the past 40 years, rising from the sixth largest oil crop to the second largest, totaling nearly 20 percent of worldwide vegetable oil production by 2009

Canola meal is highly sought after as a livestock feed, especially for dairy cattle. Canola meal is the second largest feed meal after soybean meal — worldwide.

Canola meal contains 35 percent protein and is complementary to other sources of protein because of its high levels of methionine and cysteine as compared to soybean meal and field peas.

Canola meal is also relatively high in fiber (12 percent) and is a good source of essential minerals, with especially high levels of phosphorus.

Almost all canola is crushed into oil and meal. However, there is a growing interest in producing canola for use in the biofuels industry. The major holdbacks are price related.

Canola oil for human food use commands a much higher price currently than canola oil used for biofuel production.

Statesville, N.C., growers Phil and son Phillip McLain have grown about 1,000 acres of canola for the past few years — with good results.

“We’ve had some 65 bushel per acre canola and probably averaged better than 50 bushels per acre on most of our farm,” Phillip McLain notes. At that yield level, he says canola fits in somewhere between wheat and soybeans in terms of profitability.

The North Carolina grower says they plant canola at about four pounds per acre, making the seed cost less than most other comparable grain crops. They also can plant canola with a corn planter or a grain drill, giving them some needed flexibility in planting.

The McLains got into canola production as a source of base for a projected biodiesel production operation. Though they used canola oil as fuel for their farm equipment — and liked it a great deal — price has put a damper on growing and crushing canola for fuel.

They sell all the canola they crush to local buyers, with the oil going for food use and the meal going to local dairies.

Canola and spelt are two crops that could potentially be added to expand organic rotations in North Carolina. Markets for these crops are emerging in the area, the North Carolina State researchers say.

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