Saturday, June 22, 2024

Collaboration Embraces Winter Canola

Program Creates New Revenue Stream Opportunity For Farmers


To give farmers an opportunity to boost their income and reduce fossil fuels and carbon emissions, Corteva Agriscience, Bunge and Chevron U.S.A. initiated a unique Winter Canola Program in 2023. Corteva is supplying the Pioneer hybrid seed, while Bunge and Chevron are working together through their joint venture Bunge Chevron Ag Renewables to help develop the infrastructure of the program. Bunge is contracting the acres and handling the grain and crushing plant. Chevron is committed to producing and marketing the renewable, sustainable biofuel.

The collaborators note that the Winter Canola Program is designed “to create a new revenue opportunity for farmers with a sustainable rotational cash crop. … Due to unique genetics and recommended agronomic practices, this crop can achieve lower carbon intensity levels while bringing opportunities to adopt sustainable practices.”

Chad Berghoefer, global product director of biofuels for Corteva Agriscience, said, “It’s very rare to have a situation where you can bring a new cropping system to the grower, new opportunity that includes the research side, the seed production side and the boots on the ground along with the crusher part of it, which is Bunge, and then the actual end user to make it into a viable product.

“In this case, the products would be things like renewable diesel or sustainable aviation fuel from Chevron. To bring all those components together has been key.”

After several years of testing and small-scale pilots, the fall 23/spring 24 crop was the Winter Canola Program’s first large-scale commercial planting. This fall (fall 24/spring 25) will be the second large-scale commercial planting. Corteva Agriscience has announced that “Pioneer brand winter canola is available from authorized sales locations in Kentucky, Tennessee and surrounding states that sell and service the Pioneer brand.”

Luis Copeland, senior director low carbon intensity seeds for Bunge, said, “We are looking at this crop to fit the winter fallow period and have the functional benefits of a cover crop,” he said. “But it also brings an additional opportunity for income for the grower, and it provides an additional oil supply for the market.”

Steve Klein, senior analyst for business development for Chevron Renewable Energy Group, said, “In regard to market stability, I noticed something interesting when I was with Kyle and Chad talking with growers who planted winter canola this year. While we were in their office or equipment shed, it seemed to make an impact on them to see Corteva, Bunge and Chevron as part of this winter canola effort and launching it in the Mid-South. I think this added a lot of credibility to the market and is something I am excited to be a part of.”

Field Observations

According to Pioneer, “With elite genetics, our canola hybrids deliver industry-leading yield potential and consistent oil content.”

Jonathan Siebert, area agronomy lead, Corteva, said winter canola also uses the same equipment — with minor adjustments — as crops like winter wheat and soybeans.

“Canola is a good rotational crop for cotton and soybeans, but it may not fit some soil types,” he said. “To get good advice about the agronomics of growing winter canola, contact your local Pioneer field representative.”

Winter Canola FAQs

Here are several frequently asked questions about winter canola answered by Corteva Agriscience and BCAR.

Q: How would winter canola fit into a farmer’s system?

A: Winter canola can be planted in September on what could have been fallow acres. It can be used in rotation with wheat or other double cropping systems every two to three years. Canola generally matures earlier than wheat, which can allow earlier planting of the spring crop. Canola also leaves less residue in the field than wheat, which makes no-till planting of the summer crop easier.

Q: Would winter canola replace winter wheat in the rotation?

A: No. Winter canola would be used in rotation with winter wheat since it needs two to three years before planting in the same field for disease prevention.

Q: What kind of yields can farmers expect from Pioneer brand winter canola in the southern United States?

A: Anticipated yields of 45-55 bu/acre is a common target based off of university trial results, with potential to be higher based on individual operations.

Q: If farmers contracted with Bunge, where do they need to take the grain?

A: In 2024, farmers can deliver winter canola grain to multiple Bunge enabled elevators in Northwest Tennessee and Southwest Kentucky along the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Delivery locations continue to be expanded. Refer to your grain contract for details or contact Bunge for future prospects.

Brandon Whitt, an eighth generation grower with Batey Farms near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, is participating in the 2023/24 Winter Canola Program.

“We’re always looking for ways to advance, improve and move, not only our operation, but all of agriculture to the future and be more relevant to today’s consumers,” he said. “With that mindset, my operation depends on finding value and relevance to the community.

“We are rotating winter canola with strawberries, but we also wanted to put it where the general public could see it and ask questions. Being involved with an innovative project like the Winter Canola Program is very appealing to me.”

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