Canola production TRIPLED in Washington State from 2012 to 2014!

Have you passed a beautiful yellow field in full bloom and wondered just what it was?  In Washington, there is a good chance that you may have passed a field of canola.  Canola production has dramatically increased in Washington over the past three years.

In 2014, there were 43,314 acres of canola planted in our state.  Based on an average yield of 1600 pounds per acre, the projected total production for Washington in 2014 is over 71,600,000 pounds.  At $0.18/lb, the crop is worth almost $13 million.

Canola Rankings

Canola production in Washington ranks 4th in the United States, behind North Dakota, Oklahoma and Montana.  

Spokane County is the top producing county with 10,273 acres, primarily spring canola

Douglas County is the second-highest with 7,791 acres, primarily winter canola

Benefits of canola in crop rotation

Canola is a broadleaf crop that can be grown in rotation with cereals (e.g. wheat, barley), providing an opportunity to control problematic grassy weeds.

Other benefits include: weed control/herbicide rotation, potentially higher yield in subsequent cereal crop (reported by majority of canola producers), breaking disease and insect cycles, improved soil health, and increased economic return from a rotation that includes canola.

Canola harvest and processing

The importance of having local processors for canola cannot be understated. Pacific Coast Canola is based in Warden and there are a couple of smaller processors in Sunnyside and Touchet.  Local processors mean that growers have excellent access to processing of their canola crop.


Many thanks to Karen Sowers, WSU Extension & Outreach Specialist and Steve Starr from Pacific Coast Canola for the information and pictures provided on this webpage!  For more information about canola in Washington State, visit Washington State University's website at  www.css.wsu.edu/biofuels.  

Check out this video about canola growing in Washington State and related research!

Winter or spring?  What's the difference?

Washington grows both winter and spring canola.  So what's the difference?

Winter canola is planted from mid-July to early September, while spring canola is planted in April and May. A farmer choose whether to grow winter or spring canola based on the rotation of his/her other crops.

Winter canola is typically harvested in June and July; spring canola late July and August.

Both winter and spring canola can be grown with or without being watered (irrigated).   In dryland farming regions (where the annual precipitation is 10-25 inches) canola is a common rotational crop with wheat.  On irrigated farms, canola is often rotated with wheat and/or potatoes.

The yield of winter canola (2500-4000 lbs/acre) is generally twice that of spring canola (1500-2000 lbs/acre).

How is canola used?

Canola seed is crushed, and the primary byproducts are oil and meal.

  • Edible oil (think canola oil used for cooking and as an ingredient in other food products)
  • Biodiesel – canola oil can also be processed to be used as fuel
  • Livestock feed – the dairy industry in WA utilizes canola meal in feed rations for its high protein content (38-42%); beef cattle, poultry and fish producers are also canola meal purchasers.

Pest Problems

Currently, canola growers don't face many pest issues.  The primary pests in canola are aphids, flea beetles, and diamond back moths.  Canola also helps interrupt pest issues in other crops when it is used in a crop rotation.