Darold Wax invited me to see the canola harvest on his 300-acre canola plantings west of Mansfield last weekend.
His nephew Doug Tanneberg was harvesting the crop, along with Doug’s son Kelsey.
Canola was bred by Canadian scientists about 50 years ago, and is a major crop in North Dakota and Oklahoma. Our state had only 36,000 acres last year.
But a processing plant at Warden in the Columbia Basin has brought more interest in the crop, and quite a few Mansfield farmers are trying it out.
Its bright yellow bloom in the springtime makes those acreages very visible.
Tanneberg said that canola, unlike wheat, is a very tender crop, easily blown down, and susceptible to hail. When a hailstorm hitadjacent fields of wheat and canola, the wheat suffered two percent damage, he said. But the canola was virtually wiped out, the stems being so easily shattered.
Tanneberg invited me aboard his John Deere combine to take in the harvest. It requires very little adjustment from wheat to canola, he said. That huge machine, with its 30-foot spread, is comfortably air-conditioned, follows the rows without needing a hand as it takes in the canola, a crop higher than wheat, but with a very small black seed, about the size of a poppy seed.
The crop is poor this year, Tanneberg says, thanks to winter kill. But it is prized as a source of cooking oil that has the least saturated fat of any oil. The commercial grade is the source of biodiesel oil.
There are a number of different kinds of canola, this one being harvested is named 115W, which is the most hardy to cold weather.
Even though the harvest is below average, there are good reasons to plant it, he said. Canola has a long taproot that will go down through hardpan that is found under wheat, and break up the soil. And it is “Roundup ready,” he said. The use of Roundup on canola will kill the goathead weeds are a plague in the wheat.
The combine holds 350 bushels of canola before being unloaded in Tanneberg’s dumptruck, which had to be carefully prepared to avoid any cracks, since the tiny canola seeds will find any opening.
Kelsey drove to the Mansfield terminal, where the Central Washington Grain Growers handle the marketing. They weigh the truck, dump the contents and re-weigh it again.
When the canola crop is harvested, the Tannebergs take their combine with two others and will immediately begin harvesting 4,000 acres of wheat jointly. This is earlier than normal, Doug said.
Mansfield, like Waterville, is home to families that have been there for generations. The Tannebergs date to shortly after the turn of the century, as does Darold Wax’s wife, who was a Gallaher.
His parents didn’t move there until 1947, he said.