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• The new refinery at the Bowersville site was designed to process canola grown in Georgia and the Carolinas, plus canola grown for a new plant that is scheduled to be built in northern Alabama.
• Establishing a market through processing, storage and refinery facilities was the first step in building a sustainable canola industry in the Southeast.
• The next challenge will be to develop enough acres to feed the two processing plants and the refinery.
ROBERT DAVIS, left, and Mike Garland check quality of canola oil at AgStrong’s Bowersville, Ga. plant.
A ready market
Subsequently, AgStrong has set up two delivery points at local grain elevators in Dillon and Lake City, S.C., to help farmers more readily market their crop.
Now, Davis says they are looking for additional sites in an effort to extend their canola acreage. Already, two farmers in North Carolina are growing canola for the Georgia plant. The Tar Heel state and Virginia are viable options for canola production he adds.
“We are particularly looking for growers who are accustomed to growing two crops a year, and in the Southeast that is primarily soybeans behind wheat,” Garland says. South Carolina has recently produced about 150,000 acres of wheat annually and a high percentage of that crop is followed by soybeans.
Adding to that acreage, or replacing a third of it, gives us the potential for another crushing plant in the Carolina coastal plains, he adds.
Not only will canola provide a good off-season source of cash for growers, but will likely make their immediate double-crop and successive crops better, too. Garland points out the earliness of canola may provide an opportunity to plant cotton or even peanuts, in a double-crop system.
Virtually all the canola grown in North America is in a single summer crop system in Canada and North Dakota.
The national average yield for canola is 27 bushels per acre, but Garland says growers in the Southeast can realistically more than double that yield and plant a second crop per year.
The canola being grown in the Southeast this fall and harvested next spring is light years ahead of the crop growers have sporadically produced throughout the region for the past 20 years, Garland says.
“We have much improved hybrid varieties that are highly adaptable to the soils and climate in the Southeast. After these last two decades, best management practices for weed, disease and insect management that we just didn’t have,” he says.
In addition, over that time period a high percentage of farmers have gone to no-till technology. Canola can even be grown in tillage practice.
Diquat, a harvest aid labeled for use on canola, will make a huge difference in how the crop is harvested. Shatter loss is greatly reduced, 3-5 days are gained in planting the next crop, harvestability of the canola is improved and green matter is reduced.
Once canola is harvested, the soil quality and crop residue management is improved for planting a spring crop, Garland says.
Diquat is similar to paraquat, but doesn’t have the residual within the oilseed crop. It is used to manage fungi in ponds and other aquatic settings.
“Winter crops are another annual expense, but essentially reduce farming risks. A grower can have a crop failure with winter or summer crops, but not often do we have adverse growing conditions year around.”
By planting a winter crop, and one for which there is a sustainable market, a farmer can substantially reduce his or her risk to weather-related crop failures, Garland says. “One dryland South Carolina farmer even joked with me that with multiple winter crop options, I might just farm in the winter and take the hot, dry summer off!”
“AgStrong is pro-wheat and pro-flax, another crop competing for winter acreage in South Carolina. We want our farmers to grow canola in a three-year rotation, because we are confident that’s the best stewardship approach to have a good crop and good profitability,” Garland says.
By adding a Brassica crop (canola) and a Linum crop (flax) in the wheat rotation, will help in long-term pest management.
Garland notes that he is already seeing some significant differences in soybeans grown behind canola, versus being grown for several years behind wheat.
“I think most farmers will see a significant yield increase on beans behind canola — some from being able to plant a few days earlier and some from improving the quality of their seedbed and soil by planting canola,” he adds.
Next spring farmers from the northeast corner of Georgia and throughout South Carolina are likely to be getting lots of calls. The question will be: What is the beautiful bright yellow crop growing in your field? In addition to being a good winter crop option for growers, acre after acre of canola blooms in the spring are among the most beautiful sites in all of agriculture.