Using winter canola and high-glucosinolate mustards to protect and improve soil resources and enhance on-farm profitability

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2012: $146,890.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Dr. John Jemison, Jr.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: canola, potatoes, rapeseed


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels
  • Pest Management: biological control, botanical pesticides, integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Through a series of 15 focus group sessions conducted with farmers last year in Maine, we learned that farm profitability and improving soil quality were essential to agricultural sustainability in New England. Extension needs to work with farmers to find: 1) profitable rotation crops, 2) crops that provide soil cover during typically fallow periods, and 3) innovative ways to reduce farm input costs.

    Through a strong research and educational program, we will engage farmers in learning how to grow winter canola (WC) profitably (for food or fuel), and how to use high glucosinolate mustards (HGMs) as a disease suppressive green manure cover crop. Growers will learn what WC varieties perform the best in the Northeast and optimum planting dates for different locations. They will also learn about soil preparation, fertilization, pest management, and best WC harvest practices. As well, growers will learn about the benefit of HGMs and the potential to use late planted HGMs to reduce soil borne pathogens. We are confident that both WC and HGMs will lead to reduced weed pressure and herbicide inputs, and the crop, covering otherwise bare soil, will reduce off site soil loss. Through oilseed grower group discussions, presentations, fact sheets/websites and addenda to production guides, producers will learn about the benefits and profitability of WC, and half of the growers currently growing spring canola will switch to growing WC, and those growers that switch will see yields increase by 1000 lbs/ac compared to current levels. Similarly, we will introduce potato and vegetable growers to late-planted HGMs. Potato and mixed vegetable growers that
    adopt late-summer planted HGMs will see improved skin quality of table-stock and specialty potatoes. Of the growers that adopt the practice, 75% will report less rhizoctonia on the skins and reduced amounts of silver scurf on sensitive varieties. This improved skin quality will lead to a 25% increase in potato revenues on farm. Improved sales will lead to an additional 20% of those growers growing HGMs before pea and bean crops. By increasing WC production, we will improve both the supply of product for the growing food grade oil market and raw material for biofuel use on farm or for regional production. Tablestock potato and mixed vegetable growers will see sales increase due to improved potato quality, leading to improved farm profitability.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    We will introduce 600 Maine and Vermont potato and vegetable growers to the concept of growing WC and HGM crops through presentations at conferences, production meetings, articles in newsletters, and visits to Extension websites.

    Fifteen of the 20 current ME and VT spring canola growers will attend the oilseed producers meeting and learn about WC production opportunities.

    Of the 600 ME & VT vegetable and potato growers that learn about HGM production, 50 growers will seek further information about HGM growth and management by December 2013.

    Two hundred growers will have attended a field day session (on-station or on-farm) in the two states and learned about WC and/or HGMs crop production opportunities by December 2013.

    Of these, 40 growers will have planted WC or HGMs by October 2014.
    Of these, 25 growers will document reduced pest populations, increased yields, and improved profitability.

    The oilseed producer group farmers, extension staff and agricultural sales personnel in each state grows from 20 to 40 growers by December 2014 in each state.

    Performance Targets

    Forty oilseed growers will adopt WC production and report yield increases of 1000 lbs per acre, and acreage will increase from the current 2000 acres in Vermont and Maine to 5000 acres. By the end of the project yield and acreage increases will generate an additional $750,000 in total farm income in the region. Twenty-five growers that adopt HGMs will report 50% less rhizoctonia and a 20% reduction in culls, resulting in a 25% increase in sales on 100 acres of high value potatoes. Potato price per pound varies based on production method and markets, but if the current marketable yield average is 20,000 lbs/acre, and if sold for an approximate price of $0.40/lb, the increased gross returns to the farms on 100 acres would be approximately $200,000.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.