Field trial tours tout canola in crop rotations

Washington State University winter canola field tours will demonstrate to growers the benefits of including the oilseed crop in their rotations.
Matthew Weaver

Capital Press

Published on May 18, 2017 12:13PM

Canola is known as the opportunity crop, as farmers plant it when the prices of other crops are depressed.

E.J. Harris/EO Media Group File

Canola is known as the opportunity crop, as farmers plant it when the prices of other crops are depressed.

Canola isn’t just a crop that farmers can turn to when wheat prices drop, Washington State University oilseed specialist Karen Sowers says.

Farmers should also consider the improvements possible to their wheat crop after growing canola, she said.

“We’ve called canola the opportunity crop for quite some time, but it’s good for producers to see that canola, whether it’s spring or winter, could potentially become a regular part of their rotation,” she said. “It’s helpful with weed control, it’s helpful with breaking disease and pest cycles.”

Some growers have reported wheat yield increases of 5 to 25 percent following canola, Sowers said.

WSU will offer tours of winter canola field trials at 4 p.m. May 23 in Odessa, 10 a.m. May 24 in St. John and 4 p.m. May 24 in Ralston.

USDA projections in April anticipated canola would increase to 34,000 acres in Idaho, 10,000 acres in Oregon and 50,000 acres in Washington.

The current winter canola crop has “a lot of unevenness,” Sowers said. High moisture levels from extended snow cover and high rainfall took nutrients out of roots. The canola looks best in the high-elevation Pomeroy area, and is “fair” elsewhere.

Weed pressure is also high, but canola is a “fierce competitor,” Sowers said.

“Canola is a very resilient plant. It fills in blank areas just by branching out more,” she said. “I think in the end, the crop will even out and be a good, quality crop.”

“Outstanding” moisture levels set the stage for a good spring canola crop, too, she added.

Demand for the crop will remain high from the Viterra Pacific Coast Canola plant in Warden, Wash. Estimates say it would take 400,000 acres to feed that facility, Sowers said.

“We’ve got a long ways to go on that,” she said.

WSU will offer spring canola variety tours in Walla Walla, Pullman, Almira and Fairfield in mid- to late June.



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