If you’re in North Alabama during the spring, you’ll find fields of gold scattered around – specifically along Old Highway 20 in Huntsville or on the south side of I-565 near the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. These blooms are Canola, AKA rapeseed, which is primarily grown for its oil and meal. Canola grows from 3-5 feet tall and produces pods that contain seeds. These seeds are harvested and crushed to create canola oil and meal.
Farmers plant canola in the winter – and that number has increased over the past few years in the Southeast. There has been an average of about 1,000 additional acres being added each year since 2008, making winter canola the fastest growing new crop in the state. However, Alabama is still playing catch-up to its neighbor, Georgia. Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Carolinas are also joining in on the canola craze.
When you hear about canola, you often hear about the Monsanto controversy. In a nutshell, many have taken issue with Monsanto’s use of pesticides in their canola. As weeds are becoming more and more resistant to typical pesticides, stronger pesticides are required to kill them. BUT these strong pesticides may also kill the crop (canola). To solve this, and help the canola become “immune” or less affected by their pesticides, Monsanto has inserted their pesticide into the genes of the plant. As a result, Monsanto can sell a very strong crop and a very strong pesticide to farmers.
Without getting too political, it’s easy to understand the two sides. Some people are not comfortable with this practice and consuming the pesticides. Yet Monsanto guarantees that the amount of pesticide and type are safe for consumption.
Posts are a combination of my own research, visits, and conversations, plus various information found around the web. I try to provide sources, but if you have specific questions, feel free to ask!