“Last fall was an exceptionally challenging time for farmers planting winter wheat and canola," said Heath Sanders, agronomist for the Producers Cooperative Oil Mill in Oklahoma City, Okla.

"Our preferred time for planting winter canola from September 10 to October 10 came at a time of severe drought in the Southern Plains. On top of that, an early frost in late October further stressed the new crop. Winter canola has a large tap root enabling the plant to search for any available soil moisture. It does a good job of this, but the dry soil and sudden sharp frost hurt a lot of the crop before it got a good start."

Gene Neuens, PCOM field services director, estimates 250,000 acres of canola have been planted in Oklahoma. He believes 40,000 acres have been planted in Kansas and 22,000 acres in Texas.

"We have records of winter canola being planted and growing in all sorts of places this season," Neuens said. "We know there are fields of the crop as far southwest as San Angelo, Texas, and as far north in that state as the northern part of the Texas Panhandle. What we had rather not know about are the extremely dry conditions farmers had to plant in and the continuing lack of rain throughout the area."

Recently back from trips to Kansas and Texas as well as all across Oklahoma to visit with farmers interested in producing winter canola, Neuens and Sanders say there can be extreme differences in the amount of soil moisture and crop condition in only a few miles.

"Wheat and canola look very good for the current weather conditions south of Lawton, Okla., in the Walters area," they said. "On the other hand, not too far away, around Chattanooga, it is exceptionally dry."