Document Type


Publication Date



canola production, rapseed, canadian plant breeders

Extension Number

ExEx 8130


Plant Science


Canola is an edible form of rapeseed developed by Canadian plant breeders in the 1970s. Rapeseed and canola are members of the mustard family, which also includes tame and wild mustard, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and turnip. The term “canola” was registered in 1979 by the Western Canadian Oilseed Crushers Association as the name for rapeseed varieties with genetically modified oil composition and lowered glucosinolates. Canola varieties must have less than 2% erucic acid in the processed oil and less than 30 micromoles of glucosinolates per gram of oil-free meal. The lowered levels of these two seed components enable the oil to be used for human consumption and the meal to be fed to livestock. Canola seed contains about 40% oil and 23% protein. The oil is high in mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids (oleic, linoleic, and linolenic). The meal contains about 36 to 40% protein after oil extraction and is highly palatable. In contrast, rapeseed oil contains 40% or more erucic acid and is used primarily as an industrial lubricant. The high erucic acid content makes rapeseed oil a poor-quality vegetable oil for human consumption. Rapeseed meal contains glucosinolates that lead to palatability and nutritional problems when formulated into animal feeds. China, Canada, and Europe are the major world producers of canola/rapeseed. U.S. canola production has risen from 199,000 acres in 1993 to over 1.1 million acres in 1998. North Dakota and Minnesota lead the U.S. in canola production.


Updated June 2002.