Thursday, June 6, 2013

Canola in Western Oklahoma

I almost waited too late to take photos of the beautiful yellow Canola fields around Western Oklahoma. I took these between Weatherford and Thomas. They were turning to seed and not nearly as brilliant as they were the week before. Canola is a crop with plants from three to five feet tall that produce pods from which seeds are harvested and crushed to create canola oil and meal. These plants also produce small, yellow flowers, which beautify the environment. Canola seeds contain about 44 percent oil. This large percentage of oil comes in a small package; canola seeds are similar in size to poppy seeds, though brownish-black in color. Although they look similar, canola and rapeseed plants and oils are very different. Canadian scientists used traditional plant breeding in the 1960s to eliminate the undesirable components of rapeseed* and created "canola," a contraction of "Canadian" and "ola." Canola oil is prized for its heart-healthy properties with the least saturated fat of all culinary oils.

Canola belongs to the same family as mustard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Besides the U.S., it is grown in Canada and Australia, but canola oil is consumed all over the world. In the U.S., the ratio of supply versus demand of canola oil is about 1:3, which presents a huge opportunity for U.S. producers to grow more canola.
About 1.5 million acres are currently grown in the U.S., predominantly in North Dakota, but also in Oklahoma, Minnesota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and several other states.

According to the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service winter canola is estimated that about 275,000 acres of winter canola were planted in the southern Great Plains. Farmers harvest the seed and then the canola crushers will crush that seed for its oil. Local markets have and are expected to continue to increase. The canola in Oklahoma  is primarily used for cooking oil.

This is a winter crop that grows the same time as winter wheat does. Why rotate? There are wheat fields that have “grassy weeds” in them and some of the weeds have started showing resistance to some herbicides. Those weeds could lead to dockage, a discount, for producers. Utilizing canola as a weed management tool has been one of the main reasons wheat producers have adopted the crop. Research has shown the most profitable crop rotation is wheat and canola. And a lot of it goes to the weather factors that we have faced here in the last three years. We have some moisture in the fall, winter and spring, but we haven't got it in the summer. So as a result, in crop rotation, the winter crops are currently leading the pack.
If you look in this photo you will also see another Oklahoma "crop" that is being planted all over our state. The Wind Turbine industry is growing in Oklahoma by leaps and bounds.

1 comment:

  1. On my home from Weatherford a few springtimes ago, I shot a photo from I-40 of the canola fields in full glorious bloom. It was like an ocean of sunshine. For the longest time, I thought it was mustard crop. Good to know I was not too far off in that guess. When I discovered it was canola, we started using it for cooking, you know, supporting the cause!