Canola belongs to the botanical family Brassicaceae, which also includes mustard, turnip, wild radish, cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli. Canola was developed from rapeseed in Canada to produce an oilseed crop with an improved nutritional composition, and until 1979 was known as rapeseed. There are two genetically modified (GM) traits that confer herbicide tolerance that have been bred into many varieties to provide the tolerance benefits over a wide range of agronomic characteristics and production situations. The GM varieties of canola have been approved for production in Australia, however not all states permit them to be grown.
A record four million tonnes of canola was harvested in Australia in 2012–13, with a value of AU$2.2 billion. Australia consistently exports more than two million tonnes of canola seed per annum, making it the world’s second largest exporter. Canola is considered a relatively easy crop to grow, however it does require more management, monitoring and inputs than cereal crops.
It is generally grown as a broadacre crop on large agricultural enterprises (several hundred or thousands of hectares) and farmers who grow other grain crops generally have most of the equipment needed to grow canola. Although, it may be necessary to pay a contractor to swathe (or windrow) the crop to protect the pods from shattering and losing seed. It is grown in rotation with winter and summer crops (cereals, oilseeds and grain legumes) depending on climate and availability of water. It can be a profitable crop in its own right and is a valuable break crop between cereals. A wheat crop grown after canola often yields about 0.8 t/ha more than wheat grown after wheat.
Growers are represented by the local farming systems groups, state farming bodies, and the Australian Oilseeds Federation.
Facts and figures
- Canola is Australia’s third largest broadacre crop and is grown on large agricultural enterprises
- It is grown for its seed, which is crushed for oil that is used in margarine, cooking oils and edible blends
- Canola oil is considered a healthy choice because it is low in saturated fat
- It provides an environmental benefit to farmers looking for a break crop to grow in rotation with wheat
- Canola requires more management and monitoring than cereal crops
- Most of the equipment needed to grow canola is already available on most properties that grow other crops
The 2012–13 Australian canola harvest was the largest on record at 4,000,000 tonnes, up 17% on the previous record set in 2011–12. Annual production averages 3.5 million tonnes, with Western Australia the largest producer, followed by New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
Australia exports over two million tonnes of canola per annum to its main export markets of Japan, China, Pakistan, Europe and Bangladesh.