in Agricultural Research
Canola--A Superb Selenium
By Marcia Wood
June 23, 2000
Canola, perhaps best known as the
source of a healthful vegetable oil, may soon play a new role in boosting the
health of our environment. Studies by Agricultural Research Service scientists
have shown that this yellow-flowered member of the mustard family can suck
selenium from soil and water that are contaminated with an overload of this
Then, hay made from the selenium-enriched canola might be fed to livestock
raised in selenium-deficient regions of the United States, according to results
of preliminary ARS tests with sheep and cattle. Further tests may determine
whether this approach may reduce the need for selenium supplements or
injections now used to ensure that these animals get enough of this essential
nutrient. Selenium deficiency is a major problem for livestock or wildlife in
at least 37 states and costs beef, dairy, sheep and horse producers an
estimated $545 million in losses every year.
Gary S. Bañuelos with ARS at Fresno, Calif., and ARS co-researcher
Henry F. Mayland at Kimberly, Idaho, collaborated in the canola experiment.
Their study was likely the first to use--as an animal feed or
supplement--canola that had been grown specifically for the task of pulling
naturally occurring selenium from the soil.
The scientists first measured the amount of selenium in the canola to make
sure it didn't exceed safe levels, then monitored the quantity of the mineral
in the animals' blood, milk and other samples. All of the animals remained
healthy throughout the investigation. An article in the June issue of the
Research magazine tells more.
ARS is the USDA's chief research agency.
Scientific contact: Gary S. Bañuelos, ARS
Water Management Research
Unit, Fresno, Calif., phone (559) 453-3115, fax (559) 453-3122,