By Tom Collins
CHATHAM — A Chatham-area cash cropper who grew canola for the first time last winter seemingly hit the jackpot on his first try, winning Ontario’s highest yield in the Ontario Canola Growers’ 2019 Canola Challenge.
Nathan VanOverloop decided to grow winter canola on 19 acres last year when an oilseed processing facility in Windsor, ADM, started a program for growers to try growing specific U.S. varieties of canola in Canada. Since it was an overwinter crop, canola was a good fit with the rest of his cash crops, he said, and the price was right. Through the program, the seeds were free, but all the input, planting and harvesting costs were on the grower.
The canola contest has been running for more than 10 years. There were more than 20 entries this year. The contest requires farmers to have a certified agronomist on hand when the farmer harvests what he believes is his best one acre of canola. VanOverloop yielded 4,199 lb. (about 84 bushels per acre) on his best acre, and 74 bu/ac overall and won $2,000. Second was JR McLaughlin of McLaughlin Farms at Harriston at 3,878 lb. (about 77.6 bu/ac). The contest is open to all Ontario canola growers, which can range from 400-500 depending on the year and whether farmers have the crop in their rotation that year.
VanOverloop said he was surprised to have won the contest, even though people were telling him the canola looked as it was going to yield well and encouraged him to enter the contest. “It was my first year growing it, and I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of what a great yield was,” he said.
You’ll sometime hear of growers in corn and soybean yield challenges going crazy with inputs to win the top yield, but as a newbie to the canola business, VanOverloop simply went with recommended inputs of nitrogen and sulfur.
He planted another 25 acres this year, but this time at his own expense. He liked the variety, Popular Winter Canola from Kentucky, so much that he had to fill out extra paperwork to get the seeds imported from the U.S.
For now, he’s keeping the acreage small until the Canada-China canola conflict is resolved, he said. Earlier this year, China stopped accepting imports of Canadian canola, saying there were quality issues, but Canadian officials said China has provided no evidence of that.
VanOverloop, who grows 750 acres of cash crops and vegetables such as cucumbers and green beans, said while the wet spring made spraying nitrogen tough and he lost three-quarters of an acre due to standing water, his canola was able to survive thanks to the sandier soil.
The five-year Western Ontario canola yield average is 47 bu/ac.
WESTERN ONTARIO: First-time canola grower wins yield challenge
By Tom Collins