What is in this article?:
• There is a tremendous market in the U.S. for rapeseed, used primarily for industrial use.
•Currently, more than 90 percent of the rapeseed used in the U.S. is imported.
• Rapeseed will be a niche market in North Carolina, but it is a highly profitable and highly sustainable market for farmers who can grow it.
A FIELD OF rapeseed is shown growing in North Carolina.
Row spacing important
The best success in North Carolina has come from using 7-23-inch wide rows. Planting much wider than 30 inches will cause yields to drop off. If you plant at higher seeding rates and closer row spacing, the plants will not only yield less, but they also will grow taller and be more prone to lodging problems.
Rapeseed in North Carolina is ideally planted 4-6 weeks prior to the first killing frost, usually late September until mid-October. It is harvested a week or so earlier than wheat, providing an ideal double-crop opportunity for soybeans.
Since it is a brassica crop, it also has a whole different set of disease, insect and weed pests, though all have been relatively minor is three years of testing in North Carolina.
The agronomic impact is to provide a different and better environment for double-crops, like soybeans. The additional few days of earliness of rapeseed gives growers an opportunity to get soybeans in earlier, which typically adds a few bushels per acre in addition to any agronomic benefits.
The old adage goes, “If it swims in water, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck’ doesn’t fit with canola and rapeseed. The two crops look identical and that can be a problem for growers.
As part of their agreement with growers, TCI requires that rapeseed be separated at least 50 yards from canola. Avoiding cross-contamination of seed is a big concern, but one that current contract farmers in North Carolina have not found to be a big problem.
Another concern for growers has been the availability of local delivery of the crop once it is grown. In August, 2011 TCI entered into an agreement with Perdue Agribusiness, which will make it significantly more convenient to deliver rapeseed.
Unlike wheat, HEAR is grown under contract, so farmers have the assurance that all the rapeseed they grow will be purchased. TCI supplies the seed, agronomic assistance and purchases the end crop from growers. Perdue provides storage and processing.
"We are proud to partner with the experts at TCI because they have a proven track record of success in delivering premium specialty oils to the marketplace. This is a great opportunity, not only for agriculture in North Carolina, but for the state's economy as a whole," says Dick Willey, president, Perdue AgriBusiness.
The first year of production with Perdue has been successful enough that both companies are negotiating to put together a three-year plan that promises to add even more stability for farmers in the eastern part of North Carolina.
“We are looking for win/win situations in which our company can make money, farmers can make money, and keep the crop sustainable for both of us,” Riddle concludes.
(In South Carolina flax is starting to make some inroads in competition with the more traditional wheat acreage and a growing area of canola. To see that story, visit http://southeastfarmpress.com/blog/winter-crop-competition-heating-south-carolina. To see why canola is making inroads, visit http://southeastfarmpress.com/grains/canola-good-winter-crop-option-southeast and http://southeastfarmpress.com/markets/canola-plant-spurs-interest-south-carolina-growers).