Winter canola Some growers are wary about the crop, but it has proven viable despite unfriendly weather
Canola acres in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas could reach 500,000 this year, say growers in the region.
Great Plains Canola Association president Jeff Scott said farmers were scrambling to plant canola before the Oct. 10 crop insurance deadline. Acreage could double from last year if the weather holds.
“Our estimates right now are somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 acres of canola seeded throughout this southern Great Plains region,” said Scott, who farms near Pond Creek, Oklahoma, and seeded 1,300 acres of winter canola this year.
Growers in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas planted 250,000 acres of canola last fall. Scott said both new and experienced growers are driving the acreage gains.
“We have some young growers, where this is their second or third year (with canola). If they had 200 or 300 acres last year, they’re growing 1,000 acres this year.”
Heath Sanders, a field specialist with the canola association, said the industry is maturing rapidly in the southern Plains as people realize acres in the millions are possible.
“We have made great strides in the last two or three years. We’re getting more interest of seed companies and the industry itself down in this area because they are starting to see the potential,” he said.
“In Oklahoma alone, we’ll plant four to five million acres of wheat. If you rotate it every other year, or every third year, and you add Texas and Kansas … we should see two or three million acres down the road.”
As an example of the interest in canola, a meeting in Enid, Okla., in July attracted more than 400 farmers.
Despite the interest and the adoption of canola into farming operations, neophyte growers still ask basic questions about the crop.
“How do I plant it, how do I harvest it and where do I take it?” Sanders said.
Adequate moisture, or in some cases excess soil moisture, have produced nearly ideal planting conditions this fall compared to last year, when growers seeded winter canola into parched, concrete-like soil.
Difficult conditions affected crop progress, but yields in the region were decent this summer, Scott said.
“We did get some spring moisture and came out with a pretty respectable crop. Nothing to compare with Canada and North Dakota yields, (but) we still came out with a 1,600 pounds (32 bushel) per acre average.”
Sanders said canola’s resilience has impressed farmers.
“The canola has really proven itself … with so many curveballs thrown at it, with our weather.”
Ron Sholar, executive director of the canola association and a former Oklahoma State University extension specialist, said canola has proven many people wrong in the southern Plains, including him.
“I was the guy who said it would never work.”