Improving Canola Production and Production Systems with Genetic and Agronomic Advances to Increase Canola Acreage in the Pacific Northwest Grant uri icon



  • NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Pacific Northwest (PNW) dryland agriculture is dominated by small-grain cereals with 89% of cropland planted to wheat (almost 9½ million acres) or barley (almost 2 million acres), and with few alternative crops to include in cereal rotations. Growers in the region are concerned about the long-term sustainability of monoculture cereal production, and many are considering a cropping systems approach to profitability and sustainability. Winter and spring canola yields in the PNW are among the highest in the United States. However, since this region also produces the highest dryland wheat yields in the country, convincing growers to try a new crop can be difficult, especially when this may include greater risk. This project will increase canola productivity and grower profitability by: (1) developing genetically superior winter and spring cultivars with higher yield potential and greater resistance to biotic and abiotic factors that exist in the PNW region; (2) identify and quantify the economic and environmental rotational benefits of including canola into cereal rotations at a cropping systems level; (3) identifying optimal agronomic conditions to reduce the risk of crop loss due to winterkill; and (4) determining the possible impact of blackleg disease in the PNW region. This will encourage more local growers to include canola crops in their cereal rotations, offering them more crop diversity and greater long-term farm stability, and provide better environmental stewardship.

    OBJECTIVES: GoalsThe region has many different eco-environments in the region, including very dry (less than 12 inches of annual rainfall, requiring summer fallow to raise any crop), to intermediate and high rainfall (greater than 24 inches of annual rainfall where annual cropping is most common), and irrigated production. No other canola growing region in the world has such a diverse range of production environments.Qualification and quantification of canola rotational benefits. PNW growers have become accustomed to high yielding wheat and high wheat returns, that canola often does not achieve. The value and positive impacts canola has on wheat rotations and productivity need to be qualified and quantified to allow farmers to make informed decisions about using a systems approach, rather than making decisions on a year-to-year basis.Reduced risk of canola crop failure or loss due to abiotic stress factors such as cold, heat, and drought. Although better genetics must be incorporated into new cultivars for better resistance to abiotic stress factors, there is a strong agronomic component that can impact crop productivity and survival.ObjectivesObjective 1: Develop and identify canola cultivars that afford the highest productivity and greatest profitability for different agronomic zones in the PNW.Objective 2. Quantify the effects of growing canola in rotations with wheat in the PNW.Objective 3. Determine the effects of row spacing, seeding rate, planting date, and mowing on winter survivability and productivity of early-planted winter canola in the PNW.Objective 4. Survey the PNW's potential for development of blackleg.

    APPROACH: Objective 1: We will use a wide range of breeding methodologies to develop and test new cultivars of canola that are genetically superior and highly adapted to the PNW region. Better-adapted cultivars will return greater profit to growers, and hence increase canola acreage in the region. Our breeding methods are primarily based on hybridization between selected parents, followed by recurrent phenotypic selection and inbreeding. We will utilize mutagenesis, microsporagenesis, and intergeneric hybridization. We will also expand on existing high-throughput molecular marker-assisted selections (MAS) and quantitative trait loci to identify novel genes and genotypes, thus accelerating future cultivar development. Cultivar development will emphasize adaptation to PNW agronomic zones. Selection criteria will include high seed yield and seed oil content, improved oil and seed meal quality. We will utilize associated genomics research to aid in marker assisted selection. In addition we will use transgenic technology to develop cold- and drought-tolerant canola varieties.Seed companies and breeding groups worldwide will be invited to submit winter and spring canola cultivars and advanced breeding lines for performance testing throughout the PNW to identify new, improved cultivars for commercial release in the varied climates and environments that exist throughout the PNW.Objective 2. We will estimate the basic economics of growing canola compared to other potential rotational crops and wheat in northern Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. We will also determine the rotation effects of wheat grown after canola by comparing productivity of wheat crops following canola to productivity of monoculture wheat production. These trials will be grown on fields with a long history of monoculture cereal grain production in a continuous cropping or fallow-based system, with few alternative crops available. Economic returns over two years of crop production from all rotation combinations (e.g., winter wheat-winter wheat, winter canola-winter wheat, winter wheat-spring wheat, winter canola-spring wheat, winter wheat-fallow-winter wheat, winter canola-fallow-winter wheat, etc.) will be calculated to compare the effects of including winter canola with other possible rotations.Objective 3. We will determine the yield potential of winter canola cultivars grown under two different row spacing widths, and two different seeding rates planted into fallow ground in early July and early August. This group's research has shown that mowing the canopy to a height of 6-8 inches can cause regrowth from lower dormant buds. This new growth appears to acclimate better to cold temperatures and may offer better winter survival, which is important because winters can be severe. Each treatment combination will be mowed to remove all foliage over six inches above the soil surface, or left un-mowed, to determine the effect of mowing on winter survivability and on productivity of early-planted winter canola.Objective 4. A comprehensive survey will be conducted throughout the dryland cropping region of northern Idaho, eastern Washington and Oregon to ascertain the incidence and distribution of blackleg.

date/time interval

  • September 1, 2015 - August 31, 2019

total award amount

  • 196,400