The occasion of the 10th International Rapeseed Congress in Canberra, Australia, marks 30 years since the yellow flowers of the first Australian rapeseed crops were seen in farmers fields. Although an old crop in world terms, rapeseed was not grown commercially in Australia until 1969 when farmers sought alternative crops to reduce their dependence on cereals. After early promise, the fledgling industry was decimated by the fungal disease blackleg, the early varieties being completely susceptible. Breeders set about developing new blackleg resistant varieties and the rapeseed (canola) industry re-emerged, slowly at first but then spectacularly in the 1990’s, to become a major crop in southern Australian farming systems. Production is now set to break through the 2 million tonne mark, with the majority of this earning export income. Australia has become a major player in world canola trade.
Canola oil has become an established component in Australian diets and its use is continuing to increase with greater recognition of its healthy properties. Recent development of specialty oil types offers the promise of further expansion. The emerging application of modern biotechnology to canola worldwide is also creating exciting new opportunities in crop improvement and product development.
This publication, prepared for the 10th International Rapeseed Congress, reflects on the events of the past thirty years that have culminated in the establishment of a successful canola industry in Australia. As the canola industry worldwide enters the new millenium it is indeed an example of 'New Horizons for an Old Crop'.