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Carolinas Well Suited for Rapeseed Production

In our continuing series on alternative crops, rapeseed has begun to utilize some acres, in North Carolina. Chris Reberg-Horton, North Carolina Extension and NC State Research Scientist explains why rapeseed is an attractive crop in this area:

“One, it grows here fine; the yields are amongst the highest we have seen in the region where its grown , it’s just that we have never seen a sure look at canola, a more common crop in production for markets, its been historically grown in other regions. One of the nice things here is that we don’t grow a lot of canola there are only few thousand acres. We do want to keep rape seed and canola segregated you don’t want to mix them anywhere. It’s very easy to do here, we don’t have a lot of canola around, so companies can keep their rape seed pure.”  

That begs the question…aren’t rapeseed and canola the same? Reberg-Horton says yes, but not quite:

“It’s really only a matter of breeding, it’s like calling 2 different corn varieties. They are the same thing in a genetic sense they all came from the same plants but what they’ve done is they breed them for 2 different targets. So for canola they bred them so that the oil is edible and rapeseed they bred so the oil has industrial applications, to get the content they need industrially they are not edible.” 

Hence, the desire to keep the harvested product separated.
As far as soil types, Reberg-Horton explains that most Carolina soils are suitable:

“It’s done well here on a number of soil types certainly it does very well on the piedmont soil and also on the coastal plain as long as we are not in real deep sand. We recommend they keep it off a real deep sandy field. We’ve also done really well in the blacklands as long as we have fields that are well shaped for surface drainage. One of the things I like about NC is it fits our rotation very well. Double crop soybeans come just after it majority of time it comes in just ahead of wheat so people can go out and harvest their rape seed then they harvest their wheat, even in a few days can make a big different when your double cropping soybeans and harvesting rape seed and planting soybean right after it, right before the wheat comes in. It offers a lot of flexibility in the rotation schedule.”  

While on the surface it would appear that rapeseed is a direct competitor for wheat acres, Reberg-Horton says that’s really not the case:

“Growers that are doing this- they are doing both. I say you shouldn’t grow it but every third year or you run into disease problems over the long run when you grow wheat too often in the rotation. So by having both rape seed and wheat you are able to alternate and there are no overlap of disease between crops from very different plant families. It makes great sense for both. I think the transition that is occurring is that you are seeing more double cropping of soybeans and more winter cropping where the farmers are adopting it, more winter cropping over all, so it’s not coming at the expense of wheat acreage what it is actually doing is transitioning away from too more double cropping of soybeans and less early planting of soybeans.”

And Reberg-Horton feels that adding rapeseed to the state’s crop mix is a good thing:

“I think one of the stories here is that NC is historically really good at diversification of the cropping system and the second most diverse agricultural state in the country & this is one more step in that path. “ 

There’s more on alternative crops in the Carolinas click here.

NC State Extension’s Chris Reberg-Horton. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.