Andrew Hebard, president and CEO of Technology Crops International says, “Rapeseed generates at the farm level about $100 per acre more profit than wheat. If you put that in dollars-per-acre total revenue, we would be looking at probably $650 per acre of revenue.”

Hebard says North Carolina grown rapeseed has values of about 25 percent over canola, making it too expensive for use as a feedstock or for fuel manufacture. The higher value comes from demand for rapeseed oil as an ingredient for various synthetic processes, he explains.

Oil from the North Carolina grown rapeseed is being used in the manufacture of polymers, petroleum additives, pharmaceuticals, foods and personal-care products. A derivative of the oil is used in the manufacturing process for almost all plastic bags.

“North Carolina is our demand area for growing the crop. That is where we are trying to encourage farmers to grow rapeseed, and, hopefully, make North Carolina the largest production region of rapeseed in North America, Hebard stresses.

North Carolina is the largest grain producing state east of the Mississippi River, but remains a protein deficient state, due to large poultry, beef and swine industries. In addition to the oil value of rapeseed, the crop also produces a highly desirable feed product for the state’s poultry industry.                                                                                                                                         All the protein by-product produced from North Carolina grown rapeseed will be consumed by the state’s livestock industry. Keeping rapeseed meal in North Carolina retains dollars in the state and reduces freight costs for producers, who typically bring grain from the Midwest to feed their animals.

Pantego, N.C., farmer Buster Manning typically grows 800 acres or so of wheat. This year he is planting more than 60 acres of rapeseed in side-by-side testing with wheat.

“Obviously we always are looking at alternative or new crops,” Manning says. “Everything you look at does not always work. This one looks like it has potential. The contract prices that Technology Crops International is offering are fairly attractive.”

Manning says getting enough yield from rapeseed on the black soils of eastern North Carolina is a big concern.

Rossini is a rapeseed variety developed for use in North America and the variety of choice for TCI. In tests across North Carolina the past two growing seasons it has produced 15-20 percent higher yields than canola, or about 2,200 to 3,200 pounds per acre.

“Rapeseed is a brassica crop and typically this family of plants needs space to grow. If it’s planted too close together, each plant typically produces a single stem, which is loaded with seed. If given proper row and plant spacing and planted at 3 pounds of seed per acre, the newer hybrids will develop ‘side-arms’ or additional shoots that produce more seed,” Riddle says.