Georgia producers planted an estimated 10,000 acres of canola in 1996. Virtually all of the 1996-97 acreage was planted in the Coastal Plain region and almost solely to laurate canola cultivars under identity preserved contract for Calgene Oils.
Monthly rainfall amounts recorded at the five test locations during the 1996-97 growing season are presented in the table below. Rainfall amounts at all test locations were near normal with the exception of Tifton where growing season rainfall was five inches below normal. Most test locations experienced an extended dry period during March, a critical period for this crop in the Coastal Plain.
Most of Georgia's 1996-97 canola crop was planted in a timely manner and within the recommended planting period. Heavy rains shortly after planting contributed to poor emergence and poor stand establishment in many production fields. A warm fall and mild winter stimulated good early crop growth and sustained development during the winter months. High temperatures combined with low soil moisture caused moderate to severe moisture stress on the crop during the critical periods of flower and early seed fill. This substantially reduced yields throughout most of south Georgia. The exceptionally mild winter combined with the early and dry spring resulted in earlier than normal maturity and an early harvest season.
Most pest problems were generally only of minor concern to this year's canola crop. However, the mild winter did favor development of aphids which became a significant problem in many south Georgia production fields. More than a third of the state's acreage required treatment for the green peach and/or the turnip aphid. Green peach aphids proved difficult to control and some fields required multiple treatments. Losses due to aphid infestations exceeded 10 percent in many production areas. Phoma blackleg, which emerged as a significant disease problem during the 1993-94 season, was noted at low levels in several production fields across south Georgia but caused little economic loss to the 1997 crop. Incidence of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum during the rosette stage was much higher than in previous years but still caused very little economic damage. Damage from other pests was isolated and minimal.
In spite of what appeared to be an exceptionally good canola season early in the year, many harvested yields were lower than expected. Farmers reported yields ranging from 15 to 55 bushels per acre. Average yield for the 1996-97 Georgia canola crop is estimated at 35 bushels per acre, 12 bushels above last year's freeze damaged crop.