Canada may find canola too much of a good thing

Mon Apr 30, 2012 3:49pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Western Canada's farmers might be getting too much of a good thing by planting canola more often than usual to satisfy voracious demand for the oilseed, which is used to make vegetable oil and livestock meal.

Canadian farmers are expected to plant a record-large area to canola for the sixth straight year, snatching acres from cereals and legumes out of their usual rotations.

Planting canola too often allows disease-causing microorganisms to build immunity to resistant crop varieties, while also cutting production yields an average 15 percent by some estimates for the second of consecutive plantings.

"Nobody can argue that there is no risk," said Murray Hartman, oilseed specialist for the Alberta government. "(Farmers) seem to put more emphasis on short term and less emphasis on long term."

Crop specialists urge farmers to plant canola only once every four years, but many are more aggressive and some are even planting the oilseed in consecutive years.

(Graphic on canola, wheat acres and prices:

Over time, lower yields would slow steadily rising production in the No. 1 grower of canola/rapeseed, leaving world vegetable oil market demand unsatisfied. Disease can also affect trade conditions, with China already restricting Canadian canola imports over fungus concerns.   Continued...

A canola crop used for making cooking oil sits in full bloom on the Canadian prairies near Fort Macleod, Alberta, July 11, 2011. REUTERS/Todd Korol