Canola is a crop valued for its oil, which has the least saturated fats of any of the cooking oils. The seeds consist of 44 percent oil. After harvest, the seeds are crushed into oil and meal. The meal is used for livestock feed.
Canola is a member of the same family as broccoli, cauliflower and mustard. It was bred conventionally from rapeseed, which produced an inedible oil that was used as a lubricant. After World War II, demand for rapeseed fell, and so did production. But Canadian scientists developed a rapeseed with a better nutritional profile and an edible oil, and production and demand returned. They renamed the new seed, “canola,” but in the European Union and elsewhere, it still is referred to as rapeseed.
The plant needs a dry and cool place to grow, so it is grown mainly in the United States, Canada and Australia. Canada is responsible for nearly half of worldwide canola production.
Canola has a very short harvesting window. Farmers cut the plant and leave it to dry in the field. After 10-14 days, the farmer collects the seeds to store or sell to a processor.
Canola oil can be used in several frying and baking applications and as an ingredient. In many places, it is readily available in grocery stores. Canola meal is lower in protein than soybean meal, but it can be mixed into a feed ration for animals.
Monsanto offers two canola varieties for different climates. Winter Canola is a variety that can be planted in drier climates that don’t have a harsh winter, but have harsh summers. Farmers plant this variety in the fall and harvest in the spring. Spring Canola is planted in the spring and is harvested in the fall, just like corn and soybeans. Both of these varieties are available as Roundup Ready® canola, which contains in-plant tolerance to Roundup® agricultural herbicides.