RITZVILLE, Wash. (AP) — One of the prettiest crops in the Columbia Basin could become one of its fastest growing, thanks to good prices and a new processing plant.
Curtis Hennings near Ritzville started growing canola in the early '80s as a rotation crop, though now it is his main focus.
"Four out of five years, it's my best money crop," he said. "That's why I stick with it pretty heavily."
Hennings, 56, grew up on a farm and began his own dryland wheat operation in 1978. Today, he grows 450 to 500 acres of canola each year.
Canola plants, which are related to mustard, Brussels sprouts and turnips, stand 3 to 5 feet tall. Its pods hold the seeds that are crushed for the oil, which then is used for cooking and biodiesel.
In the '60s, Canadian scientists developed canola from rapeseed. The canola name comes from "Canadian oil, low acid."
While the Canadian prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are by far the world's largest growers of canola, the United States has become a serious player in recent decades.
North Dakota is growing 1.3 million acres this year, followed by Oklahoma with 150,000 acres. Minnesota, Montana and Idaho also grow large amounts of canola, followed by Washington, which increased its canola acreage this year to 17,000 acres from 10,500 last year, said Dale Thorenson of the U.S. Canola Association in Washington, D.C.
It has grown in popularity in recent decades because it's considered more nutritionally balanced than other oils. The U.S. Canola Association says it is lower in saturated fat than any other culinary oil, higher in monounsaturated fat, high in omega-3 and free of transfat and cholesterol.
Terry Morgan, president of the Washington Canola Commission, grows 100 to 300 acres a year, rotating it with barley.
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