It almost sounds too good to be true: a crop in high demand with excellent profitability and low risk that can also help clean up wheat land from horrendous weed contamination. Canola offers all of that and more.

To put the latest information about the crop into the hands of growers in Oklahoma and Kansas, the Oklahoma and Kansas Cooperative Extension Services will sponsor a Winter Canola Conference July 15 in Enid. It will take place at the Hoover Building on the Garfield County Fairgrounds, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The conference, a notebook of information, refreshments and lunch are all free of charge.

There are a lot of good reasons to grow canola, said Tom Peeper, professor of plant and soil sciences with Oklahoma State University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

“First of all, the price of canola is high, around 29 cents per pound,” he said. “To put that in perspective, wheat is currently around $8.50 per bushel while canola is about $14.50. With the cost of fertilizer and diesel fuel, many wheat producers won’t make much more profit from $8.50 wheat than they did two to three years ago when wheat was around $3.50 a bushel.”

In other words, canola offers a better chance for more profit. An additional bonus comes from virtually risk-free contracts.

“The Producers Cooperative Oil Mill (PCOM) and the Plains Oilseed Products Cooperative (POP) in Oklahoma City offer growers ‘Act of God’ contracts,” Peeper said. “That means a producer contracts the acres put into canola, promising to deliver whatever is produced. If the crop fails, the producer isn’t left without a crop, but still having to fulfill a contract to deliver so much, say, wheat.

Since PCOM and POP are tied in to the state Co-op system, growers can, in most instances, deliver the crop to their local Co-op, and not have to truck it miles, or even hundreds of miles away.

Aside from advantageous price and contract aspects of canola, there are good production reasons to grow the crop as well. As a result of more than abundant rainfall in 2007, many wheat growers were forced by the wet weather to significantly delay harvest.

“That allowed a lot of weeds to drop their seeds into the moist soil, so that this year a lot of wheat fields were plagued by contamination from cheat, rye, vetch and, in at least one instance that I know of, oats,” Peeper said.

Growing canola can help producers clean up weedy fields.

“Canola can be grown anywhere wheat grows,” Peeper said. “The yield for canola will be about 80 percent to 85 percent of wheat yields. But we keep getting new and better varieties. We’ve also found solutions to some of the early problems with shattering during harvest, and the challenges of the wheat-canola rotation in no-till.

Peeper said the July 15 conference will address these issues and solutions and more. There will also be information about federal crop insurance for canola that is now available across Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. Other topics will include seed supplies, production management, insect control, and production economics, as well as question and answer sessions for each presentation.

“I would urge any wheat producer to attend this conference and learn the latest about canola production,” he said. “The prices are so attractive that I’m sure many growers will like to try some canola this year.”

The prospect for continued high canola prices is excellent.

“Canola is certified by the Food and Drug Administration as a heart healthy product. Couple that with the move by many cities to ban the use of trans fat, and the move by many national restaurant chains away from trans fat to healthier products such as canola, and you have a product in high demand. That food-grade oil demand is only going to increase,” Peeper said.

“Interestingly,” he added, “while there is great interest in using many plant oils for biofuels, even with diesel more than $4 per gallon, canola is so valuable for food use that no one can even think putting it into biodiesel.”

To reserve lunch and a notebook, those planning to attend are asked to pre-register no late than July 9 by calling 405-744-6420 or e-mailing deana.titus@okstate.edu. Continuing education units (CEU’s) will be available for Certified Crop Advisors and Oklahoma Pesticide Applicators.