School of Economic Sciences

Agribusiness Management

Economics of Canola Production in the Pacific Northwest

By Kathleen Painter and Dennis Roe



Interviews with canola producers across the major production regions of Washington and Oregon provide the basis for the economic analysis of canola production for this region. Enterprise budgets were created for producing spring canola in western Washington and three precipitation zones in dryland eastern Washington, and for winter canola production under irrigation as well as following summer fallow in dryland regions. Record high prices for wheat have reduced the relative profitability of canola production in this region, but spring canola is promising as a rotational crop for wheat, replacing dry peas in the annual cropping region of eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Winter canola can improve the productivity of winter wheat in the higher rainfall dryland wheat/fallow regions of the PNW, as it reduces grassy weeds, improves soil tilth and enhances the moisture holding capacity of the soil. A four-year wheat/fallow/canola/fallow system rotated throughout the farm enhances overall profitability by 50% for a long-time dryland canola producer in an 11” precipitation zone.


Canola production is a logical choice for biofuels in the Pacific Northwest for several reasons. It grows well in most agricultural areas of the region and serves as a good rotational crop for the predominant cash crops of wheat, potatoes, and corn. Canola has high oil content, approximately 40%, compared to about 30% for yellow mustard and 20% for soybeans, a crop which is not well suited for production in most of the state. Canola and rapeseed, particularly the winter varieties, produce a high yield of high quality oil suitable for biofuel production. While mustard may be better suited to the dry conditions and hot summer temperatures common east of the Cascades, mustard has a lower average yield and, at this point in time, a low-value meal byproduct relative to canola. (Research is currently underway on a biopesticide product made from mustard meal, which should increase the value of the meal significantly.)

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