Canola can be profitable, field-friendly
Canola’s striking yellow head brightens up a field. And its price is also pretty to growers like Ed Regier.
Regier farms near Enid, Okla., where wheat is king. Excessive ryegrass infestations aggravate growers, who often use a corn rotation to help clean fields of the nuisance. Canola also helps rid fields of rye, says Regier, who finds room for canola in his wheat, corn, soybean and sorghum rotation.
“Canola has been good for helping clean up both ryegrass and wild rye that hurts wheat,” he says. “There are better varieties — and at a price of 23 to 24 cents a pound — it’s a crop that can make you some money.”
Canola is an oilseed crop developed from rapeseed. Europeans have grown it for 2,000 years. It provides wheat growers with a winter broadleaf rotational crop to help clean up hard-to-control broadleaf and grass weeds, according to Oklahoma State University Extension agronomists.
• Farmer finds canola profitable mixed in with his crop rotation.
• The broadleaf oil crop can help break rye cycle in wheat.
• The Oklahoma City market is convenient for Southern Plains growers.
In Regier’s normal all-dryland rotation, he grows corn, followed by wheat, which is double-cropped with soybeans. “I’ll then come back with corn or milo,” he says. “But growing canola after corn allows me to go one more year without wheat to clean a field. About 25% of our rotation is in canola this year.”
Regier plants canola following corn harvest in mid-September, usually before he plants wheat. His planting rate is about 5 pounds of seed per acre. He has planted with a drill in the past, but plans to use a row-crop planter this fall to save on seed.
He says canola works well planted after corn and normally has a good stand. It requires about one-third more nitrogen than wheat, OSU says. About one-third N should be applied in the fall and two-thirds in the spring before it starts to flower. Phosphorus and potassium requirements are similar to wheat. Soil ph ranges should be from 5.5 to 8.3, OSU says.
Canola is an indeterminate crop and has a certain amount of immature seeds at harvest. It’s ripe when the pods are dry and rattle when shaken. Seed is dark brown to black at maturity, OSU says. Stems will still be partly green. Harvest should be at 8% to 10% moisture, and it should be cut just below seedpods.
Straight combining will perform better in heavy canola where it is leaning, with pods “laced” together, OSU says, adding that canola that’s ready should be harvested immediately. Swathing is a possible alternative for harvesting winter canola.
“I harvest with a windrow swath method,” Regier says. “Our yields are from 1,500 to 2,000 pounds. With prices in the 24-cent-a-pound range, canola can be a viable crop on its own without helping control rye.”
Regier says he forward-contracts about one-third of his canola with a local co-op elevator. Much of the regional canola is marketed through Producers Cooperative Oil Mill in Oklahoma City.
PCOM began handling canola in 2007-08 and helped get Oklahoma production started on a strong note, says Heath Sanders, PCOM oilseed agronomist. He estimates that more than 150,000 acres of canola were planted in Oklahoma for 2012.
About 100,000 acres were planted in Oklahoma last year and 85,000 were harvested, according USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. As with other crops, the drought took its toll on yields, keeping production at about 1,000 pounds per acre.
Oklahoma is the second-largest canola production state, far behind North Dakota, which had 860,000 acres in 2011, or about 85% of the total U.S. production. “With the large usage of canola oil by consumers and its value as a meal in livestock feed, there is a huge demand gap between U.S. production and usage,” says Sanders.
Regier is certainly sold on it. “I think it’s a promising crop, one that we’re learning more about every year,” he says. “It’s good for helping keep ryegrass out of wheat, and it’s a good cash crop. We need to keep spreading our risk around, and canola is a crop that helps us do that.”
Stalcup writes from Amarillo, Texas.
This article published in the June, 2012 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.