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Canola is good wheat rotation

Canola is good wheat rotation

Canola offers rotation option Helps control persistent weeds Good market available

Jeff Scott is a modern agriculture pioneer. Scott and a handful of other progressive farmers were bold enough to place their land and operating funds on the line to help establish winter canola in the Southern Plains.

Winter canola, a genetically-enhanced crop, was developed as a Land Grant University agronomist's searched for a better way to combat a serious weed problem in winter wheat production in the Southern Plains states.

Dr. Tom Peeper, Oklahoma State University weed scientist, was looking for a better way to remove persistent weeds from winter wheat continuously cropped for decades.

Almost ten years ago, Peeper asked Scott and other willing wheat farmers to help grow enough acres to prove canola would control weed problems when grown commercially over a large area in big wheat country.

Scott, who farms near Pond Creek, Okla., believed Peeper's research and realized the wheat he harvested was losing money when because of unwanted weed seed. Developed from spring canola varieties widely grown in Canada and northern U.S. farms, the first varieties had winter survival problems, were in short supply and had literally no place to be marketed successfully.

More research yielded better varieties with improved winter hardiness, better yielding qualities and a genetic ability to tolerate chemical weed control.

Scott is a founder and president of the Great Plains Canola Association, a farmer cooperative dedicated to promoting canola production in that area. He also serves with the U.S. Canola Association, the national organization for all U.S. canola production.

50/50 rotation

This year, Scott planted 1,500 acres of winter canola along with 1,500 acres of winter wheat. While it is common for wheat farmers to rotate winter canola with wheat in a one-to-three or one-to-four ratio of canola to wheat, Scott started planting half of his acres to canola and the other half to wheat, rotating each year.

"I had pretty well cleaned up the weeds in my wheat fields," Scott said, "but recently, I began to find a lot of rye in the wheat I planted. I started the 50/50 canola-wheat rotation to get rid of the rye as quickly as possible.”

Scott planted three canola varieties this year with most of his acres in DKW 4410 and 4615, both Roundup Ready varieties. The rest of his canola acreage is planted with Cropland 125.

Scott is a true believer in no-till farming.

"I have been practicing no-till for 13 years now," he said. "We are just now seeing the real benefits of no-till practices pay off for us. Rotating canola with winter wheat in a no-till operation is a natural so far as I am concerned. I have seen our fields increase in productivity during the last decade. There is less water runoff, less soil erosion and soil nutrients are retained better with no-till farming."

No-till production

Scott's no-till program includes corn, milo and some hay production, he said.

While there is some fear of a pending drought in the near future in Scott's general area, overall, he has adequate soil moisture. 

"We can always use another rain," Scott said. "My wheat and canola are holding their own. Both crops got a good start at planting time and are growing well now. Most of my canola has reached dormancy with colder weather. I believe it is at the right stage, with continuing rainfall, to start growing good in the spring."

Scott puts down 80 to 100 pounds of anhydrous ammonia nitrogen per acre in the fall for canola. He uses knives to place it eight to 10 inches deep in the soil. In January, he will apply 30 to 50 pounds of nitrogen plus 20 to 30 pounds of sulfur and one-half pound of boron per acre to boost the crop.

"I am a real believer in using boron to increase canola productivity," he said. "We have seen in controlled tests where a half-pound of boron will improve canola's winter hardiness."

Last year, applying boron increased canola yield an extra 15 bushels per acre in one field, he said.

Producers Cooperative Oil Mill, at Oklahoma City, Okla., has provided Southern Plains canola growers with a reliable market for their crop.

Scott believes in the future of winter canola as an important cash crop that can help winter wheat growers combat persistent weeds that depreciate wheat prices. "We like the combination of a new crop that helps us agronomically and financially," he said.

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