Winter canola offers a realistic choice for Oklahoma wheat growers who’ve experienced price dockage problems from weed seed and foreign matter when selling their crop.

Growers report a sharp reduction in weeds such as ryegrass, cheat, rescue grass, jointed goat grass and wild oats when they rotate canola with wheat.

Gearing up for canola is not difficult and markets are promising.

Winter canola can be planted and harvested with the same machinery used to plant and harvest winter wheat. Canola oil is a healthy cooking oil and is used for biofuels. The Producers Cooperative Oil Mill in Oklahoma City, Okla., provides a consistent, reliable market to buy winter canola seed in the Southern Plains states.

Currently, winter canola seed is selling for $8.05 per bushel, daily cash price. Price quoted for 2011 new crop canola is $8.50 per bushel, compared to the December 2010 Kansas City price of $6.42 per bushel price for winter wheat.

PCOM offers winter canola grower contracts for farmers searching for a crop to rotate with winter wheat that will reduce persistent weed problems and offer a good market.

Recommended planting dates for winter canola range from Sept. 10 through Oct. 20, coinciding with similar planting times for winter wheat.

Wheat grown continuously for decades in the Southern Plains has created a serious problem where many different types of weeds grow with the wheat and compete for soil moisture. When harvested, seed from these weeds is harvested with the wheat and sharply reduces the price paid at grain terminals.

Oklahoma grain organizations are encouraging wheat farmers to use alternative crops to clean fields of the persistent weed problem.

"Oklahoma has gotten the reputation of having problems with dockage and foreign material in our wheat and it has made it harder for us to sell to domestic millers and international customers," said Joe Neal Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association. "Over the last two years Oklahoma producers had 68 percent more dockage than Kansas and 23.5 percent more than Texas."

Dockage is all non-wheat matter. Hampton said Oklahoma wheat had 150 percent more foreign material than Kansas and 37 percent more than Texas.

That meant huge discounts for Oklahoma producers for this year's harvest and some loads of wheat were actually rejected, he said.

Cheatgrass, ryegrass, rescue grass, jointed goat grass and wild oats are the most common causes of dockage while rye is the most common foreign material.  

Winter canola is one alternative crop suggested to rotate with winter wheat to remove the weed problem, he said. It is covered by federal multi-peril crop insurance.

Farmers interested in planting winter canola can contact their local OSU county educator. OSU Extension has two agronomists specializing in winter canola production. One is located at Enid and the other at El Reno, Ok.

PCOM recently hired Heath Sanders, an OSU Extension winter canola specialist, to work with Southern Plains farmers who plant winter canola. Sanders can be contacted at the main PCOM telephone number, 405-232-7555 or his cell number 580-678-2754.  His email address is hsanders@producerscoop.net

Farmers interested in growing winter canola should contact Gene Neuens or Brandon Winters at PCOM at 405-232-7555. Neuens' email address is cscneuens@yahoo.com. Winters' email address is bwinters@producerscoop.net