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Future-proofing Canada's top crop.

 

Brent Collins, Head of Canola Seeds – North America

If you’re on a plane flying over the great Canadian prairies around this time of year, chances are you’ll see field upon field of tiny, bright yellow flowers. These flowers are far more than just a beautiful part of the scenery: they’re thriving canola crops growing on Canadian farms.

 

Canola is an incredibly vital crop for Canada, and was developed right here at home in the 1970s by Canadian scientists  – so naturally, we’re the leading exporter of canola to the rest of the world. For more than a decade, canola has been the number one source of farm revenue from crops, and more than 43,000 farms across our nation grow it today. Ninety per cent of canola grown in Canada is exported to more than 50 markets around the world in the production of widely used healthy oil for household, restaurant and industrial cooking and baking.

 

With big stats like these, it’s hard to put a dollar figure to canola’s true value. For BASF, it’s more tangible: our InVigor brand of canola seed holds more than half of the market share for canola in Canada. This is something we don’t take for granted, because we know that along with this strong position comes with an incredible amount of responsibility – and we owe it to our industry to provide the right tools and advice that will help growers get the most out of this vital crop.

There’s science at every step


Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture: though they might use canola oil and canola products in their daily lives, the reality is that Canadians may not know what it takes to actually grow a good crop of canola. They may even be more curious about it now, with recent trade issues with China making headline news and becoming a more frequent dinner-time conversation topic.

 

I think it’s important for people to know just how much work goes into producing quality canola, and why ensuring its long-term success is so important for Canada.

 

Growing a crop isn’t as simple as just putting a seed into the soil, adding water and watching it grow. Think about the work you put in to planting a vegetable garden at home, for example: you need to plan carefully, so you must consider what works well together (like tomatoes and basil), or what might run the risk of taking over your whole garden if left untended (like mint), or ensuring the soil has the nutrients it needs to feed the plants. Now, imagine how complex that planning process becomes, when you’re growing thousands and thousands of acres of crops.

 

There is science and chemistry backing every step of the growing journey, from the time a seed is developed and then planted, to the moment those vegetables are picked, or that crop is harvested for export. And sometimes, the science behind it addresses a simple concept such as, what’s the perfect number of plants per square foot, to allow them to flourish and maximize the crop’s potential?

 

When InVigor® hybrid canola was first launched more than 20 years ago, it completely redesigned canola growing in western Canada. We recognized that our responsibility to the industry was to not just provide the quality product. We also needed to ensure that we were providing Canada’s canola farmers with the right tools, resources and advice to ensure their success in growing InVigor canola. This is the foundation on which we built our InVigor RATE project.

 

The InVigor RATE concept is based on the simple but critical notion that there is a target plant population (TPP) that ensures an optimal canola crop. We invested in agronomic research to find out what that TPP should be: five to seven plants per square foot. From there, we knew we could adjust our packaging to make sure farmers could easily achieve that TPP based on the size of their canola fields and the size of the seed.  The TPP approach to growing InVigor will be commercialized in the spring of 2020.

 

The long and short of it is, we took that simple concept and backed it with agronomic research to make sure we are doing the right thing for farmers, so they can grow the best canola they possibly can – which ultimately benefits the consumers and food companies who use canola oil.  

Future-proofing through constant innovation

Our work is never done – and nor should it be. We are deliberate and thorough with our approach to knowing what’s coming next for the industry, so we can continue to pace our innovation and agronomic research investments to address future issues. But we can’t do this alone: we need to continue to highlight the strength of our partnerships across the board with organizations like the Canola Council of Canada, and provincial canola grower groups, for example, to ensure our findings are consistent with those of the industry at large.

 

At the end of the day, we take our market leadership position seriously. We strive for constant innovation, including investing in research that will allow us to develop technology for farmers.

 

And that’s just the beginning: our commitment to the industry runs deep, and we will continue to lead the charge in helping Canada’s canola growers get the best out of their crops – through crop protection products, product stewardship, best practices, and agronomic advice that will ensure their long-term success.

 

Canadians count on canola, and as BASF we have a responsibility to make sure that they can continue to do so for generations to come.