Pat McIntyre and members of his family anxiously watch for rain clouds on the horizon, hoping they will soon harvest their winter canola crop.

A dense, thick crop when it’s mature, moisture level of canola seed dictates when it can be harvested and the seed accepted at a grain terminal. To be and stored, the seed must have a moisture content of less than 10 percent.

"Anything around nine percent is great," McIntyre said. "If we can get moisture (that low) we can harvest one field and move to another down the road."

The McIntyres, Pat and his two sons, Brent and Kyle, accompanied by Heath Sanders, who works in winter canola production for Oklahoma State University Extension, have been making moisture checks on winter canola in the Temple, Okla., area.

They planted approximately 550 acres of the crop last fall and have swathed several fields to speed up the crop's maturity.

Winter canola can be harvested while standing, like winter wheat, but often, it’s better to swath it, let it dry on the ground like hay and then pick it up with a combine, Sanders says.

After taking several grain samples last week, they found moisture level slightly below the magic number of 10 percent.

They also found the canola grain was testing 53 pounds per bushel, a "very good figure" for such a small seed, Pat said.

"I’m guessing this field will yield around 2,000 pounds per acre," he said.

The McIntyre's are growing DeKalb 4110 and 4615 Roundup Ready varieties.

Winter canola was recently developed from spring-planted canola, a money crop for many years in northern U.S. grain-producing states and Canada.

Plant breeders tweaked the northern spring varieties of canola and created new varieties that would grow in cold months. Agronomists at Oklahoma State University and Kansas State University developed a program to grow the new crop in rotation with winter wheat.

Such weeds as cheat and wild oats have become a serious, widespread problem in Southern Plains winter wheat production, the Land Grant university scientists report.

New winter canola varieties with genetic ability to tolerate pre-plant herbicide applications also have improved yield potential and cold-weather resistance. Growing these varieties in rotation with wheat has reduced persistent weed populations infesting continuously-grown wheat.

Demand for canola seed is good. It is processed into healthy cooking oils and for biofuel production. Price range exceeds $7 per bushel compared to slightly more than $3 per bushel for wheat.

The McIntyres produce cotton, winter canola, winter wheat, milo and cattle on their family farm. They have started planting their spring cotton crop, Pat said. They use Roundup Ready Flex varieties with Bollgard protection.

"We have good soil moisture to plant our cotton this year," Pat said. "I checked it recently and it is already sprouting."