Agronomists at the Producers Cooperative Oil Mill in Oklahoma City predict more than 200,000 acres of winter canola will be planted in the next 30 days in the Southern Plains.

Heath Sanders, a PCOM agronomist, says the window of opportunity for planting the 2011 canola crop began Sept. 10. Past agronomic research has determined the ideal time to plant canola is from Sept. 10 through Oct. 20. This year may provide some unusual planting challenges, considering the ongoing major drought. Sanders says farmers should follow some essential practices before planting.

"Canola producers should be taking soil samples, applying fertilizer and finishing the last round of tillage before planting." he said. "Most Oklahoma soils that have been worked are dry, loose and fluffy. A good settling rain would do wonders in preparing this soil for planting.

"Residue management is a key for canola planted in no-till fields. But producers need to get everything ready for planting, regardless of what method they use. The timeline for planting canola this year looks more challenging than past years due to the extreme dry conditions. Having the soil prepared, seed picked up and drills calibrated will allow producers to get in the field and get the crop planted."

Sanders says weed pressures this year could be greater if any rainfall occurs across the state. Since weather conditions have been dry, cool season annual weeds have not had a chance to germinate, he said. Producers need to start scouting fields and checking for weeds early this fall. "Winter canola doesn't compete very well when the crop is in its seedling stage so it is very important to scout fields and make herbicide applications early in the fall if it is needed," he said. "A good rule of thumb, under normal growing conditions, is to apply herbicides four to six weeks after the canola has been planted."

Producers also should be scouting fields for diamondback moth larvae and army cutworms. If insect pressures are high, a tank mix with the herbicide application may be feasible.

Farmers who intend to plant winter canola should know about using row crop planters to seed canola, rather than using grain drills common to planting winter wheat.

Dr. Randy Taylor, Oklahoma State University agricultural engineer, has developed guidelines for adapting sorghum planter plates for canola. Taylor says he’s seen some interest in using row crop planters to seed winter canola. With the assistance of  "innovative producers and a little testing, we have developed guidelines for adapting sorghum plates to meter canola with a John Deere vacuum planter," he said.