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Little yellow flower

"Is that what they call that little yellow flower?"

Yes, canola is what the novice often calls the "little yellow flower" populating fields in the area this time of year.

Canola growers, like Jon Wert, who farms 2,600 acres of canola on his land east of New England in Hettinger County, say the crop works well into their rotation cycle.

"I started growing canola back about 10 years ago when I needed a rotation crop because growing wheat on wheat in the fields was causing problems," said Wert, who also raises corn, in addition to canola and wheat. "Canola fit the bill as a rotation crop for me and it works well in this part of the state, especially in Hettinger County, which is a big producer of the crop."

The North Dakota Crop, Livestock and Weather Report stated last week that 55 percent of the canola crop was blooming, which is ahead of last year when 0 percent of the crop was blooming. On average, 3 percent of the canola is in bloom this time of year, according to the report.

The U.S. Canola Association reports there are about 1.5 million acres of canola grown in the U.S., about 90 percent of which comes from North Dakota.

Barry Coleman, executive director of the Northern Canola Growers Association in Bismarck, said canola is the fourth most popular crop grown in North Dakota, in terms of acreage. Canola comes in behind wheat, corn and soybeans, he added.

"Growing canola started years ago in the northern regions of the state, where it is not as hot in the summer," Coleman said. "The

varieties of canola have improved and it is better able to withstand the warmer summer temperatures throughout the state now, so farmers across North Dakota started growing the crop more.

"The recent hot temperatures are good for the canola though, but a lot of growers were able to get their crop in early this year and some fields have been blooming for around three weeks," he added.

Coleman said canola is in bloom, especially in places like Hettinger County.

"This year, canola is really popular, especially in Hettinger County, where I think there is about 60,000 acres of canola being grown there," he said. "That's probably close to a record for that county."

In addition to the U.S., canola can be found growing in fields in Canada and Australia, according to the U.S. Canola Association.

Canola belongs to the same family as mustard, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower. It has many heart-healthy aspects that make it a commonly found ingredient in cooking oils.

But canola is sometimes mistaken for rapeseed oil, said Roger Ashley, Dickinson Research Extension Center agronomist.

"Canola oil is an edible rapeseed oil that is generally used in things like lubricants, as it is generally considered an industrial type of oil," he said. "But rapeseed is more likely to be grown in places like Montana."

Wert has been vice president of the Northern Canola Growers Association for two years.

Through the organization, he said growers can learn about canola and the challenges farmers must overcome to grow the crop.

"It's a little more challenging when it comes to growing canola, especially when it comes to harvesting the canola," he said. "You also have to be careful with the wind and hail because they can damage the canola crop easily."