The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 6, 2013

Golden crop for the area: Canola acreage continues to grow in NW Oklahoma

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Oklahoma looks to become the top canola-producing state, said the president of Great Plains Canola Association.

“This area is the bright, shining light for the future of canola production in the nation,” said Jeff Scott, who grows between 1,800 and 2,000 acres of wheat and canola each year across the southern portion of Grant County.

Roger Gribble, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service northwest area agronomist, estimates about 100,000 northwest Oklahoma acres were planted in canola last fall.

“We’re hoping we can pick up close to half a million acres that will grow canola in rotation with wheat,” Gribble said. “This is a wheat-growing area, and producers have mastered the growth of wheat. The problem with that is the growth of weeds.”

One of the biggest benefits of rotating wheat and canola on the same acreage is the ultimate reduction of unwanted plant content in the wheat taken to market. Because canola is a broadleaf plant, with a tap root, and wheat is a grass plant, different herbicides used for each crop better control weedy plants.

“It’s good for the soil and helps grow better wheat,” Scott said.

He said rotating wheat with canola over the last 10 years has increased his wheat yield by about 30 percent, and he no longer gets docked at the elevator on account of rye and other grasses in the wheat.

“It’s highly profitable for the farmer,” Scott said. “It’s good for the soil, and it recycles nutrients.”

Another advantage of canola is the end product.

“We get a heart-healthy oil out of it,” Scott said.

“The edible oil is the high-value product out there,” Gribble said. “You’ll also see some of it go into biodiesel and industrial oils, but it has got a lot of uses. Canola meal has high value in the livestock industry. You also see it go into cakes. It’s a crop that can do a lot of good for our county, our state and our nation.”

Gribble said canola growing started in Oklahoma about 2004 with a few acres planted by “a few trusting producers” working with Oklahoma State University.

“Since then, it’s grown exponentially,” Gribble said.

Canola is just as profitable as wheat, Gribble said. Part of the compatibility is both crops are winter-planted and have more time to catch the moisture they need to grow. That makes them better suited for the climate.

Scott agreed. He tried different summer crops in rotation with wheat, and didn’t fare as well with those ones as he’s done with canola.

“It was a matter of going out on a limb and trying something new and trying to educate myself,” Scott said. “There’s a big learning curve there.”

Now, there’s better education available for farmers wanting to grow canola, such as the OSU and GPCA’s Canola College — a forum where experienced canola growers share tips and successes with others.

A canola processing plant planned for Enid would lower transportation costs for growers.

“We’ve seen canola in the early years shipped to North Dakota and old Mexico,” Scott said. “In the early years, it was hard to find a market.”

The usual recommendation of GPCA is to rotate a field of canola every third year. Scott rotates canola with wheat each year.

“I plant 50 percent of my acres in wheat and 50 percent in canola,” Scott said.