Canola has been grown in the Western Canadian Provinces for many years, and today there are over 15 million acres grown there annually. A few years ago when we were studying canola as a crop for Michigan, we visited Ontario which has similar climatic conditions and soils as Michigan. They were producing about 50,000 acres then in an area Northwest of Toronto and were having excellent success using it as a rotation crop with corn and soybean.
In Michigan we have experimented with growing Winter Canola planted in September and harvested the following July, much as we do wheat. We found problems with winter kill and heavy grazing by deer during the fall and winter. Since our initial attempt, we have not grown it on our farm, and have preferred the more consistent, although lower yielding, Spring Canola.
Detailed information on growing canola can be found here.
Growing Canola PlantsThis growers’ manual has been developed by North Dakota, where they are now growing over one million acres of canola annually. Although North Dakota has somewhat different soil and climate conditions than Michigan, I have found this manual to be excellent, and the practices described within fit very well with Michigan conditions.
We have found canola to be a management intensive crop, where timing is critical. I’m talking here in terms of planting dates, spraying times, and harvest. If a grower is willing to follow the recommendations closely we have been able to quite consistently get 40 bushel per acre yields, and believe it will be possible to get 50 and even 60 bushel yields. At 40 bushels per acre a farmer should be able to make money on canola.
In the past years we have shipped most of our canola to Canada, as there is no processor in Michigan. Even with shipping rates that are high, we have been able to make money. The closest U.S. plants are in North Dakota and freight is prohibitive to move the crop that far.