LIBERAL, MO.--- A few farmers in Barton County are stepping out of their comfort zone to grow a unique crop. It's a canola plant, which is used to produce canola oil. It can be used as biodiesel, but most commonly used for healthy cooking and healthy animal food.
"I've raised canola, this is my third year and both years it has been better than wheat for me," said Joe Meadows, Barton County Farmer.
Yellow fields that look like flowers are in fact canola crops. 40% of the seed is used to produce canola oil, which is a good alternative for vegetable oil.
"Then the byproduct of the oil extraction is a high quality animal feed," said Meadows.
Most farmers avoid the crop because the plant is higher maintenance than corn and soy beans. It requires more attention in fungus scouting.
"Checking for insects and disease and application of the fungicides is very crucial as far as the timing goes," said Meadows.
The canola plant needs about an inch of water a week to survive, but too much moisture can also kill it.
"They do raise in a lot of aired climates, but they don't push the yield envelope quite like we're looking to do here in Barton County. So the more water right now the better, but to a certain point," said Meadows.
90% of U.S. canola is grown in North Dakota. The rest in raised in pockets of Kentucky, Missouri, and southern Illinois. Farmers in favor of the plant use it as an alternative to raising soft wheat.
"It's sometimes difficult to seed the wheat whenever the soy beans ripped, so it's just spreads the work out a little more and economically is a good alternative," said Meadows.
Meadows says the crop isn't most farmers first choice, but he intends to expand further next year.
"I'm up 400 percent from last year, and I look to maybe double that again this year, but the canola has to prove itself too," said Meadows.
Depending on the market, farmers can make about $50,000 off 50 to 60 bushels per acre.
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