Members of Oklahoma's new Oilseed Commission have set checkoff rates for winter canola and sunflower production.

At a recent Oklahoma State University agricultural experiment station field day at Lahoma, commission members, with grower input, voted to charge a half cent per dollar when farmers sell canola at designated terminals.

"This rate equals one half percent of market value at the time the crop is sold," said Alan Mindemann, an Apache, Okla., farmer and secretary/treasurer of the new Oilseed Commission.

Checkoff funds are typically used to finance research, promotion and other efforts considered beneficial to the agricultural commodity represented.

"The first checkoff funds for winter canola in Oklahoma will be charged this spring when the current crop is harvested," Mindemann said. "No sunflowers are growing at this time in Oklahoma. The checkoff will be applied to that crop when it is harvested."

Members of the Oklahoma Oilseed Commission, along with Mindemann, are: Brent Rendel, chairman; Kelly Chain, vice chairman; Lee Leeper and Brent Thompson, members.

"The 2010 winter canola crop looks good," said Mindemann, who has 200 acres. "Our field day at Lahoma was good. We had a good producer turnout and the OSU scientists had a lot of good information to share with us."

A new crop to be grown in the Southern Plains, canola, an important oilseed crop originating in Canada and the northern United States as a spring crop, was chosen by OSU agricultural scientist Dr. Tom Peeper and a group of ag scientists at OSU and Kansas State University to be a likely crop for rotation with winter wheat, the most important crop grown in the Plains states.

But winter wheat, grown continuously on dryland farms located in the moisture-starved plains, has a number of production problems which rob farmers of important income when the crop is sold at market.

The most important of these problems is weed infestation. For many reasons, perennial weeds such as cheat grass and wild oats grow profusely in wheat fields, defying the best attempts to find a control method. Much of the time, the only control at hand is the application of expensive herbicides.

Ideally, according to Mindemann, the best approach to solving the problem was to find another money crop to rotate with winter wheat.

Searching for such a crop, Land Grant university agricultural scientists, along with involved seed companies, seized on canola, which originally was a spring crop. Geneticists were able to develop a winter-growing canola and began to test new varieties in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.

The new winter canola, which has a large taproot that breaks up hard, dry soil to allow better storage of soil moisture, when rotated with winter wheat, disrupts the weed cycle traditionally following winter wheat production. Desired for its high oil content for cooking oil and also for alternate fuel sources, winter canola has proven to be a good rotation option for wheat growers.

Winter canola also brings higher prices than winter wheat. Producers Cooperative Oil Mill in Oklahoma City has producer contracts for winter canola and processes the seed. More than 85,000 acres of winter canola is maturing in Oklahoma fields, waiting for spring harvest. Canola can be planted and harvested with the same equipment used for wheat production.