Kansas State and Oklahoma State University agronomists, seeking new ways to reduce problem weeds growing in continuously cropped wheat, decided nearly six years ago to emphasize research on a money crop with different characteristics that could be grown in rotation with winter wheat.

Canola, a spring oilseed crop grown in Canada and in the northern U.S., can be farmed with the same equipment as wheat, but it is a completely different crop with distinct agronomic characteristics requiring additional production skills.

Both spring and winter types produce a seed with a high oil content. When processed, the oil is a source of healthy, low fat cooking oil and for biofuels.

Crop breeders created new varieties designed to grow in cool seasons that could be planted in fields where winter wheat had been planted. Canola interrupts the growth cycle of such undesirable weeds as cheatgrass, wild oats and rye. When winter wheat is harvested, the wheat seed is infested with seeds from these weeds. Presence of these weed seeds sharply reduces the price paid wheat farmers.

New Roundup Ready winter canola varieties help farmers control weeds and are doing a good job growing under dryland conditions where soil moisture is always an important factor in making a crop. Canola has a large taproot that allows it to find scarce moisture in Plains soils.

The last important development for a viable canola industry was creating a reliable, competitive regional market close to where the crop is grown. Producers Cooperative Oil Mill (PCOM), in Oklahoma City, provided canola growers a place to market their crop.

Working with area-wide grain terminals where farmers can take canola seed, PCOM not only buys canola seed for processing but also offers farmers production contracts.  A farmer-owned, multi-state cooperative with more than 61 years of service to farmers producing cottonseed, PCOM offers opportunities for another important crop option. Prices paid for canola seed by PCOM further enhance it as an important commodity farmers can utilize as a reliable money crop.