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Starner, D.E., H.L. Bhardwaj, A.A. Hamama, and M. Rangappa. 1996. Canola production in Virginia. p. 287-290. In: J. Janick (ed.), Progress in new crops. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA.

Canola Production in Virginia*

David E. Starner, Harbans L. Bhardwaj, Anwar A. Hamama, and Muddappa Rangappa

    1. Cultivar Evaluations
    2. Date of Planting/Seeding Rate
    3. Fertility Evaluations
  4. Table 1
  5. Table 2
  6. Table 3

Use of canola (Brassica spp.) oil is increasing steadily among health-conscious consumers due to its lowest content of saturated fatty acids (5 to 8%) among edible oils (Downey 1990; Sovero 1993). The United States is dependent upon imported canola oil to meet the consumer demands. During 1993-94 and 1994-95, approximately 409,508 and 425,852 t, respectively, of canola oil were imported. The imports of canola oil during 1995-96 are expected to be approximately 500,000 t (Foreign Agricultural Service, 1995). Domestic production of canola would offset costly imports, enhance the productivity of American farms, and diversify agriculture.

Evaluation of rapeseed as a new crop has been continuing since 1982 at the Northern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Orange, Virginia. Spring and winter types were evaluated for their yielding potential by planting during both fall and spring seasons from 1983 to 1986 at Orange, Virginia. The spring types planted during fall did not survive due to lack of winter-hardiness whereas the yield of spring-types planted in the spring was very low as compared to winter types.

Commercial canola production in Virginia has been declining since 1990-91 when canola was planted on about 600 ha. During 1991-92 and 1992-93, approximately 300 and 200 ha were planted with canola. Production during 1994-95 was practically non-existent. This situation, however, is changing due to considerable positive interest on the part of local marketing concerns and some producers who are planning to install small crushers.

In order to develop an agronomic system for canola production in Virginia, research was initiated during 1992-93 at three locations: Orange (Northern Piedmont region), Petersburg (Southern Piedmont region), and Suffolk (Coastal Plain region), to identify suitable cultivars and ideal agronomic practices (planting dates, seeding rates, and fertility requirements). The main objective of this research, is to establish canola as an alternate cash crop for Virginia.


Cultivar Evaluations

Many cultivars have been evaluated under the National Winter Rapeseed and Virginia State Canola Variety Evaluation programs. These evaluations were conducted at Orange, Petersburg, and Suffolk as replicated experiments with three-row plots at Orange and four-row plots at Petersburg and Suffolk with a row spacing of approximately 30 cm. These plots received 100 kg/ha of nitrogen, 44 kg/ha phosphorus, and 80 kg/ha potassium.

Date of Planting/Seeding Rate

During 1993-94, replicated experiments with four canola cultivars ('Cascade', 'Ceres', 'Cobra', and 'Doublol') were conducted at Orange, Petersburg, and Suffolk to determine ideal planting time. These experiments were planted on four dates at Petersburg and Suffolk, and on three dates at Orange. The experimental plots consisted of three rows at Orange and four rows at Petersburg and Suffolk with a row spacing of about 30 cm. During 1994-95, three planting times were evaluated at each location but the first and second planting experiments at Petersburg and Suffolk were unsuccessful. However, the third planting (Nov 8, 1994 at Suffolk and Dec 9, 1994 at Petersburg) was successful. In this planting, four seeding rates (approximately 4.5, 9.0, 13.5, and 18.0 kg/ha) were evaluated for each of the four cultivars. Three seeding rates (approximately 4.5, 9.0, and 13.5 kg/ha) were evaluated at Orange in a separate experiment. These plots received 100 kg/ha of nitrogen, 44 kg/ha phosphorus, and 80 kg/ha potassium.

Fertility Evaluations

Replicated experiments, using 'Ceres', were conducted at Orange, Petersburg, and Suffolk during 1993-94 and 1994-95 to determine the effects of 50, 100, 150, and 200 kg/ha of N on canola yield. In experiments at Petersburg and Suffolk, three N application times (all applied in fall as top-dress, all applied in spring as top-dress, and half applied in fall and the other half applied in spring) were also evaluated with 'Ceres'. Calcium nitrate (15.5%) was used as the nitrogen source at Petersburg and Suffolk. At Orange, ammonium nitrate (34% N) was used as nitrogen source. All plots received 44 kg/ha phosphorus and 80 kg/ha potassium.

Plot yields from all experiments were converted to t/ha with a moisture of 8.5%. One t/ha is approximately equal to 18 bushels/acre.


Mean canola yields (t/ha) during the 1992-93 season varied from 1.7 to 2.2 at Orange, 1.7 to 2.5 at Petersburg, and 2.4 to 4.0 at Suffolk (Table 1). During 1993-94, the mean canola yields (t/ha) varied from 1.5 to 2.3 at Orange, 1.6 to 2.5 at Petersburg, and 1.7 to 3.1 at Suffolk (Table 1). During 1994-95, the mean canola yields (t/ha) varied from 1.4 to 2.8 at Orange, 1.0 to 1.9 at Petersburg, and 1.1 to 3.0 at Suffolk (Table 1). These results indicate that canola yields in Virginia can be competitive with yields from other states where canola yields generally average 2.0 to 2.2 t/ha. The average state yields in Virginia during 1992-93, 1993-94, and 1994-95, were 2.1, 2.1, and 1.8 t/ha, respectively, however, yields of two highest yielding cultivars in each year averaged to be 2.7, 2.4, and 2.2 t/ha for 1992-93, 1993-94, and 1994-95, respectively. Based on these yield levels, canola can successfully compete with winter wheat production which has an average yield of 3.7 t/ha ($367/ha) (Virginia Agricultural Statistics, 1993). Based on canola yields of 2.7, 2.4, and 2.2 t/ha, the returns will be $605, $531, and $483/ha, respectively. The oil content of canola seeds varied from 32 to 49% with a mean of 40% during 1993-94 season. The bird damage to maturing canola has been observed at research farms at Orange and Petersburg due to proximity to trees and small plots but has not been an economic problem in commercial canola fields or at the research farm located in Suffolk.

Based on the results in Table 2, the ideal planting time for canola is late Sept. or early Oct. Since a delay in canola planting beyond the first week of Oct. resulted in significant yield loss, it may be suitable for planting only in rotation with early maturing crops other than soybean. The results presented in Table 3 indicate that under Virginia conditions canola needs approximately 100 to 150 kg of N/ha. The residual N approximates 14 kg/ha at Petersburg and Suffolk indicating that in most situations application of 100 kg/ha of nitrogen should be optimum. The results from application time experiments indicated lack of differences when nitrogen was applied in fall, spring, or split into fall and spring. The experiments at Petersburg and Suffolk with four seeding rates (approximately 4.5, 9.0, 13.5, and 18.0 kg/ha) each with 'Ceres', 'Cascade', and 'Cobra' and three seeding rates with 'Ceres' (4.5, 9.0, and 13.5 kg/ha) at Orange (results not presented) indicated that seeding rates did not affect canola yield.

Even though canola has been shown to have potential as an alternative cash crop in Virginia, lack of crushing facilities and/or marketing outlets have been a limitation in its development as a viable crop. This situation, however, is changing for the better. A farmer in Eastern Virginia installed an extruder type crusher that is capable of crushing canola produced on approximately 150 to 200 ha during 1995-96 season. Some other individuals in Virginia are also planning to establish such small crushers with an approximate cost of less than $100,000 each and market the oil rather than the whole seed. Such endeavors might prove to be a boost in establishing canola in Virginia.

These studies have identified suitable cultivars and optimum cultural practices. The yield potential of Virginia-grown canola compares favorably with that of other states. The only hurdle in the way of canola becoming a successful cash crop in Virginia is the availability of market access.


*This research was supported by a project funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture/CSREES/National Canola Research Program.
Table 1. Performance of canola cultivars during 1992-93, 1993-94, and 1994-95 in Virginia.

Cultivar Orange Petersburg Suffolk Mean
NPZ-01 -.- 2.5 3.3 2.9
HN120-91 2.2 1.7 4.0 2.6
HN057-92 2.2 1.8 3.7 2.6
HN031-91 2.1 2.0 3.0 2.4
Ceres 2.2 1.9 2.8 2.3
Falcon 2.2 1.9 2.6 2.3
Accord -.- 1.8 2.7 2.2
HN029-91 2.1 1.8 2.6 2.2
HN020-91 1.8 1.9 2.4 2.0
NPZ-101 1.7 -.- -.- 1.7
Mean 2.1 1.9 3.0 2.1
LSD(.05) 0.5 0.8 1.0 0.5
Jetton 2.3 2.5 2.5 2.4
HN057-92 2.0 2.1 3.1 2.4
HN9324 2.3 2.0 2.3 2.2
HN090-91 2.0 2.0 2.3 2.1
A731 2.1 1.7 2.2 2.0
Accord 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.6
Mean 2.1 2.0 2.4 2.1
LSD(.05) 0.4 0.3 0.6 0.4
Jetton 2.4 1.3 3.0 2.2
HN031-91 2.7 1.9 1.8 2.1
HN074-91 2.5 1.3 2.4 2.1
HN020-91 2.4 1.9 1.6 2.0
HN120-91 2.8 1.6 1.4 1.9
HN042-92 2.4 1.2 2.1 1.9
Falcon 2.4 1.2 1.9 1.9
Casino 2.2 1.3 2.1 1.8
HN033-91 2.0 1.4 2.0 1.8
Cobra 2.6 1.4 1.1 1.7
Cascade 2.0 1.6 1.1 1.6
Pendleton 1.8 1.1 1.7 1.6
Ceres 2.0 1.0 1.7 1.6
Onyx 1.4 1.2 1.3 1.3
Mean 2.3 1.4 1.8 1.8
LSD(.05) 0.5 0.6 0.9 0.6

Table 2. Effects of planting time on canola yield in Virginia.

Location Planting date Yield (t/ha)
Petersburg Sept. 29 1.6az
Oct. 6 1.6a
Oct. 13 1.2b
Oct. 20 0.4c
Suffolk Oct. 1 2.4a
Oct. 8 2.0b
Oct. 15 1.8b
Oct. 22 1.2c
Orange Oct. 4 0.8a
Oct. 15 0.2b
Oct. 26 0.0b
Orange Sept. 13 2.5a
Sept. 28 2.4a
Oct. 7 1.6b
zMeans separation within locations by Duncan's Multiple Range Test (5% level).

Table 3. Effects of nitrogen rates on canola yield in Virginia.

Treatment rate (kg/ha) Orange Petersburg Suffolk Mean
50 1.2bz 1.6c 1.7b 1.5b
100 1.6a 1.8b 2.1a 1.8a
150 1.6a 2.0a 2.1a 1.9a
200 1.5a 2.0a 2.4a 2.0a
50 2.7a 2.5b 1.7b 2.3b
100 2.5a 3.0a 1.9ab 2.5a
150 2.2a 2.4b 2.3a 2.3b
200 2.3a 2.4b 2.2ab 2.3b
zMeans separated within locations and years by Duncan's Multiple Range Test (5% level).

Last update June 10, 1997 aw