Getting ready for winter canola
• Selecting the right cultivar: Consider several factors when selecting a cultivar, including but not limited to winter hardiness, seed yield, oil content, disease resistance, relative maturity, lodging susceptibility and shatter tolerance. Selecting for two or more cultivars with differing maturities could be beneficial to spread out harvest and reduce risk.
• Selecting the right site: Consider soil texture, pH and crop rotation methods. Well-drained, medium-textured soils work best. The soil pH should be between 5.5 and 7.0 units. Planting canola continuously is not recommended and is not insurable. Be mindful when planting canola following broadleaf crops like sunflower, soybean, alfalfa or cotton, as these crops share similar diseases with canola. Canola will perform best when adequate time is allowed after the preceding crop to let soil moisture recharge and to control weeds.
• Planting methods: Decide on tillage or no-till. If using tillage, use aggressive tillage as early as possible and make each succeeding pass shallower than the last. Incorporate fertilizer and herbicide with the last tillage operation. Some long-term no-till producers have grown canola successfully, and with proper drill settings, no-till planting usually results in adequate stands. Maintaining stands over the winter, however, can be difficult with low disturbance in heavy residue cover. This can be resolved by burning surface residue immediately before planting or by using a more aggressive drill setup that removes residue from the seed row. Canola can be planted in a variety of row spacings, from 6 to 30 inches wide, and should be planted to best suit the land and water situation.
• Timing of planting: The general rule is to plant canola six weeks before the average date of the first killing frost in central and south central Kansas, or eight to ten weeks for southwest Kansas. This allows adequate time for plant growth to improve winter survival and canopy development. Planting too late will result in small plants with insufficient reserves to maximize winter survival. Planting too early might result in excessive growth that depletes soil moisture and nutrients.
• Soil, weed, insect and disease management: Test soils to determine fertilizer needs. Control weeds early in the fall. Canola seedlings compete poorly with established weeds, so a clean seedbed is important. The best control of canola diseases is achieved through careful rotation.
For more information, read the newly revised K-State Research and Extension publication MF2734: Great Plains Canola Production Handbook (http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/library/crpsl2/mf2734.pdf). A video explaining winter canola in Kansas is available on YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMHYsVa37Cs).