Researchers promoting canola as viable crop for area

By Thomas Garcia: Freedom New Mexico

Researchers at the New Mexico State University Science Center in Clovis said canola would be a viable crop in the High Plains because it can be used for biodiesel production and as dairy feed.

Science center assistant professor Sangu Angadi advocates the use of canola over corn in biofuel production. He said research is beginning to show that grain-based ethanol production is not as efficient as seed-based production, Angadi said.

Angadi said 10 acres of canola can produce yields of up to 80 gallons of biodiesel per acre.

He also said growing corn for ethanol is not ideal for this area because area farmers cannot match the Midwest farmers production levels.

There is also quite a price difference in production costs between corn and canola, Angadi said.

Corn requires a lot of irrigation, while canola can be grown with or without irrigation. To reach full yields, Angadi suggests farmers combine irrigation and dryland farming for best results.

Even though the crop can be grown for biodiesel production, the biggest advantage in this area is the large dairy industry, Angadi said.

Dairies are using the canola mill to feed their cattle, and they have been importing it from Canada, Angadi said.

Canola mill is a protein source that could be added into dairy feed, according to Patrick Kircher, Roosevelt County Agricultural Extension agent.

Having a locally grown source would provide the local farmers with an alternative, economical choice, Kircher said.

“The dairies in the area would be happy to save money by purchasing the canola from local farmers,” Angadi said. “If the farmer does not want to produce their own biodiesel or sell it for the production of the fuel, the dairy will usually buy their entire crop.”

While the canola plant is not ideal for intercropping with crops such as corn, there are summer and winter varieties, Angadi said.

“In our research the winter variety has produced the highest crop yields,” Angadi said.

Oklahoma State University has been conducting studies on using winter canola as a rotational dryland crop for winter wheat, said Francis Epplin, professor of agricultural economics at OSU.

Although it can be used for biofuel production, the research being conducted at OSU is focused on the production of canola food oil, Epplin said.

Much of the canola food oil is imported from Canada. The research is to determine if the oil can be produced locally at a competitive level.

The science center has been conducting canola research in conjunction with Colorado State University, University of Texas and Texas Tech University for the past two years, Angadi said.