Alberta: Yellow Fields Forever

northern exposures

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The occasional Montana field of yellow sent us scurrying across the internet to discover what it might be. The answer? Canola or mustard! They look too similar for me to tell them apart but both are cold weather crops; both are raised extensively across the prairie lands of Canada, and to a lesser extent across Montana, South Dakota and the Pacific Northwest all the way to Washington state; and both are breathtaking when you see them stretch across the plains.

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In fact, Canada is the largest producer of canola and mustard in the world, by far! Both are relatives of the rapeseed plant whose seeds have been used as a source of oil in India for the past 4000 years! Canola is a hybridized form of rapeseed invented by Canadian scientists (guess what the “can” stands for).

Besides being a popular cooking oil, it has been used as a lubricant and is used to produce biodiesel!

And it is a farmer’s friend, a lucrative cash crop that also rejuvenates the soil when rotated with other crops like barley.

Just how profitable is it? Well, Canada planted 340,000 acres of mustard in 2013 which yielded 950 pounds per seeded acre. Each sold for up to 38 cents per pound. That’s 340,000 x 950 x .38 = $122,740,000. That’s a nice cash crop.

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