Canola offers benefits for wheat producers when put in rotation
click image to zoomKay LedbetterWinter canola can be used in rotation with wheat and help boost yields and clean up weed issues. Wheat producers looking for a rotational crop to help clean up weeds and boost yields might find answers with winter canola, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
Paul DeLaune, Ph.D., AgriLife Research soil agronomist at Vernon, and Clark Neely, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension state small grains and oilseed specialist in College Station, discussed winter canola pros and cons at a recent field day near Chillicothe.
“Canola is a higher maintenance crop but also a higher value crop, as much as $2 per bushel higher than wheat, and if you use it as a rotational crop, you can get a higher yield out of your wheat the following years,” DeLaune said.
click image to zoomKay LedbetterPaul DeLaune, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research soil agronomist at Vernon, discusses canola and wheat rotation. Canola variety trials have been conducted through the AgriLife Research station at Chillicothe since 2004, consisting of as many as 90 varieties, both experimental and commercial lines.
“Winter canola has received a lot of interest lately,” DeLaune said. “We’ve seen increased acreage in the Rolling Plains and Oklahoma. We are up to about 40,000 acres in Texas, with the majority of acreage within a three-county area of the Rolling Plains.”
He said the U.S. Canola Association has a goal to increase acreage from the current 400,000 acres to 1.5 million acres by 2018 in the Southern Great Plains, which would include Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Colorado.
“Canola is a good rotational crop with wheat,” DeLaune said. “That’s something wheat farmers have struggled with for years, finding rotational crops.”
He said disease and weed pressure can be an issue with continuous wheat systems, which is the predominant practice in the Texas Rolling Plains. With canola, grass-based herbicides can be applied to take care of the grass issues, “so that’s definitely a benefit.”
Additionally, DeLaune said research data from Oklahoma State University shows wheat following canola has as much as a 32 percent increase in tillers; 21 percent increase in forage production and at least a 10 percent increase in wheat grain yields following canola.
Canola is a brassica, a family of crops known to release chemical compounds that may be toxic to soil-borne fungal diseases of plants upon decaying, he said. This biofumigation process can lead to a healthier root system for subsequent grain crops and increased nitrogen use efficiency.
DeLaune’s current study includes continuous wheat, a wheat-canola-wheat rotation and a canola-wheat-wheat rotation to determine agronomic and economic benefits. The project is funded by the Texas Wheat Producers Board.
His other canola studies, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, include effects of tillage, planting date, row spacing, seeding rate and variety selection on production.
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