Oklahoma State University

Canola in Your Operation

Canola in Your Operation

Where Would Canola Fit In Your Operation?

Roger Don Gribble

OCES NW Area Agronomist


The thought of having a winter annual broadleaf crop has been a topic of many coffee shop discussions. Something that wheat could be rotated with and would be a program crop with price support payments if the economics fell into the tank.

While canola has been produced in the United States, it has not been able to survive our harsh Oklahoma winters. Recently there has been some research done to help provide producers with canolas that are tolerant to our winters. In fact there are three current winter tolerant varieties available and Kansas State University is ready to release a fourth variety. Monsanto is currently working with three varieties that happen to be Roundup Ready releases and also winter tolerant. 

So why would researchers and producers be interested in Canola? One such idea is one that comes from the coffee shop talk. Producers need a crop that is not tied to the grain markets. As producers look at corn, grain sorghum and soybeans as rotations for wheat, they all are tied to grain markets. If a producers looks at canola, he will find the market tied to the oil seed markets.

Canola utilizes small grains equipment that we currently have on hand. We use a drill to establish the canola stand and we can harvest canola standing in the field with just a few combine adjustments. With some duck tape to cover holes, we can utilize our grain trucks to haul the crop to town and utilize the local grain elevators to store the crop if need be. The grain elevator will need to be willing to accept the crop, but it does appear there will be buyers for the canola crop in northwestern Oklahoma. 

A rotational crop allows producers to break weed and disease cycles associated with wheat production. When these cycles are broken, producers can deliver a higher quality crop with less dockage to his grain dealer. There is also limited research, which suggests a wheat yield increases following a canola rotation. OSU is currently investigating this with several field trials out this fall.




Canola is a Good Fit for Oklahoma

Mark Boyles, Project Specialist and Dr. Tom Peeper, Weed Science

Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Oklahoma State University


The interest in canola production has increased significantly in the United States in the last 5 to 10 years. Most of the increased production has occurred in northern states where spring varieties of canola are planted. Today, there is an increasing demand for this oil by diet-conscious consumers. With the development of new winter tolerant varieties (both conventional and Roundup Ready) canola offers promise as a rotational crop with winter wheat that has high quality oil and also can be used in the livestock industry providing an excellent source of forage, hay and meal. Growing winter canola is much like growing winter wheat. Canola and wheat are planted and harvested about the same time. Canola (50 lbs/Bu) reportedly yields a little less than wheat, but has a higher price and is usually a profitable crop. Canola production uses small grain equipment, limiting the need for large investments in machinery. Production costs of canola are similar to those for winter wheat. The low investment costs and increasing consumer demand for canola oil make winter canola a potentially good alternative rotational crop for Oklahoma wheat growers. USDA programs consider canola an other oilseed for LDP, loan, and other FSA administered programs. The loan price in North Dakota, where canola is currently being grown, will be about $9.30/hundredweight ($4.65/bushel) beginning in 2004. Currently, the USA imports all the canola produced on 2,000,000 acres/year in Canada.


Because of Oklahomas climate and rainfall pattern, winter wheat occupies more acreage in the state than any other crop. Government commodity support programs evolved to support continuous wheat. With Freedom to Farm, crop rotations long advocated by OSU for weed and disease control became potentially feasible. Some wheat growers quickly tried other crops. However, some early successes with summer crops soon gave way to the reality that Oklahoma summers are often too hot and dry for profitable summer crop production and that a summer crop could severely reduce fall wheat pasture. What was obviously needed was a winter crop to rotate with wheat.


Kansas St. University started breeding winter canola 10 years ago and they have released some very winter hardy public varieties that today show excellent yields in Oklahoma. Yields last year from research plots in Payne County ranged from 42 to 52 bu/A.


Currently there are three conventional winter varieties available from Kansas State University that appears to fit OK wheat production areas. They are Wichita, Sumner, and Abilene. Sumner is also tolerant to residual SU herbicides. Three winter Roundup Ready canola lines are also being tested by OSU for agronomic fit in Oklahoma.


Herbicides are now labeled to kill the major important winter grasses in both conventional and Roundup Ready canola. OSU feels that it is imperative to investigate canola as a way to get rid of our grass weed problems and reduce the disease, nematode and insect pressures that have evolved due to continuous wheat production. The worst-case situation we have now is the abandonment of wheat in southern OK due to ryegrass.


Potential benefits for growing and developing an Oklahoma canola market:


  • Introducing winter canola should improve the marketability of OK wheat because of improved consistency and quality after a canola rotation.
  • Introducing winter canola will give OK wheat growers an opportunity for the first time to have an economically viable winter broadleaf rotational crop.
  • A canola rotation provides an outstanding opportunity with currently labeled herbicides to control difficult grass weed species found in traditional continuous wheat. These include cheat, ryegrass, jointed goatgrass, rescuegrass, wild oats, and feral rye.
  • Canola production would give wheat growers the opportunity to produce a commodity that is tied to a market other than the grain market. Sorghum and corn are both tied closely to the wheat market. Canola would be tied closer to the oil-seed market. This would give farmers the opportunity to spread out their economic risk.
  • The use of current small grain equipment to produce canola reduces investment costs.
  • Adding another crop in a rotation will help break up wheat disease and insect cycles.
  • Crop rotations have long been considered important for sustainable crop production. Recent research by Dr. Gene Krenzer showed a 4-year average wheat yield increase of 7.8 bushels/ acre when wheat is rotated with winter field peas. However, unlike winter canola the peas are not considered a profitable crop on their own.


Crop rotation needs to be a major part of the long term weed management strategy for Oklahoma to be a reliable supplier of high quality wheat.


Tom and Marks Reasons Why:

To Plant Canola

Not to Plant Canola

Clean up weedy wheat fields It tends to shatter.
More profit than wheat. You might have to swath it.
Breakup wheat disease cycles. It doesn't like low pH.
Don't need new equipment. You have to spray for aphids.
Improve future wheat yields & quality. Seed costs to much.
No green bugs. I don't know how to grow.
In state crusher with local delivery points I might not get a stand.
Multi-peril crop insurance available. I can't graze it.
Enjoy trying something new.

My landlord won't like it.

Provides broadleaf winter rotation option. Doesn't work well no-till after wheat
Production education available. Requires more management than wheat.
Market demand for healthy oil.  
Dire need for rotation with wheat .  


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