High oleic canola seeing continued growth

(Resource News International) — Improving agronomics and economics are making specialty high oleic canola varieties (also known as high stability, omega-9, or low linoleic) a more favourable choice for western Canadian farmers, according to industry participants who expected to see a continued increase in acres going into the varieties in 2009.

Canadian farmers planted about 16.1 million acres of canola in 2008-09, harvesting a 12.6 million-tonne crop, according to Statistics Canada data.

Glenn Lennox, an oilseed analyst with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Winnipeg, said there were no official government numbers on how much of the canola grown in the country is of the high oleic varieties, but agreed with estimates placing the specialty acres in the 10 to 15 per cent range.

The downside of growing the high oleic specialty varieties is becoming less of an issue, he said, especially with new herbicide-tolerant options.

“Our expectation is to continue to see that segment grow as a portion of canola acres,” said Chris Anderson, vice-president of crop production with the Canola Council of Canada. He noted there are now herbicide-tolerant high-oleic canola varieties in the Roundup Ready, Clearfield and InVigor Health systems.

“I think we’re seeing improvements in technology that also make them better fits on producers farms, agronomically as well as economically,” said Anderson, noting that yields for high oleic canola varieties have been steadily improving, making them easier for farmers to grow.

Farmers are paid a premium for contracting to grow high oleic canola, as the crops are typically lower yielding than standard commodity canola and must be identity preserved. High oleic canola is grown for its healthy oil attributes as well as its functionality in commercial frying applications, as the oil does not require hydrogenation.

The Canola Council of Canada set up goals for the canola industry in 2007 under the banner “Growing Great 2015.” The goals project that at least 25 per cent of the canola acres in Canada would be of high oleic varieties by 2015, said Anderson.

Dow AgroSciences (with Nexera) and Cargill (with Victory) are the two major companies involved with high oleic canola production in Canada.

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