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Kansas producer cuts first canola crop

By Stuart Estes

Canola has traditionally been thought of as a northern crop, but now it is finding its way into the fields of wheat farmers in Kansas who are looking for a new rotational crop.

One such producer is Paul Lange, who operates a farm in Sumner County, Kan., where his family has been farming for six generations. On June 14, Lange harvested his first crop of winter canola from a plot of ground near Conway Springs, Kan.

“For my first crop of canola, I couldn’t be happier,” Lange said.

“We were looking for a good rotational crop to go with wheat,” said Lange about the choice to plant canola.

Canola, which in America is primarily used as an oil seed, works as a rotational crop with wheat. According to Lange, because canola is a broadleaf crop it can access soil nutrients that a grass crop, such as wheat, would not be able to. This allows the soil nutrients available for wheat to be replenished during a rotation planting of canola.

“There is a good symbiotic relationship between wheat and canola,” Lange said.

Lange planted a glyphosate-resistant variety of winter canola, which he mentioned helped diminish the weed pressure that would be present for next year’s crop of wheat.

“This was a Roundup Ready variety we planted,” said Lange.

Unlike wheat, canola is swathed and left in windrows prior to harvest, which allows the seeds to sufficiently dry before harvest with a combine. Lange’s canola crop was swathed by a custom crew four days prior to harvesting on June 14.

“The stems below the windrow anchor the canola windrow in place,” Lange said.

This anchoring is essential; whereas, the canola tops, which house the seed, can easily be blown away with a gust of wind.

Lange used a Gleaner combine with a draper header to harvest the canola seed. According to Lange, the canola seed needed to have moisture content less than 10 percent when it headed to the elevator.

Upon inspection at the elevator, the quality of Lange’s canola crop was good overall, but yield was slightly less than he had hoped for at 30 bushels per acre.

“The freeze hurt a little more than we thought it would initially,” Lange said.

Earlier in the year, Lange’s crop of canola had been a stop along the route of a canola field day sponsored by Kansas State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency, the U.S. Canola Association and the Great Plains Canola Association. Although researchers at Kansas State had aided him throughout the process, Lange mentioned how raising this crop of canola had been a learning experience.

“We knew a little bit [about the canola], but it was all second-hand,” Lange said.

The canola crop Lange planted this year covered 315 acres; in addition to the canola, he also planted 4,600 acres of wheat. Lange said he would continue to use canola as a rotation crop in some of those wheat acres next year.

“We have plans in the works for more acres [of canola] next year,” Lange said.

As an attempt to improve his crop of canola next year, Lange plans to use a planter set on 15-inch centers to plant the canola seeds instead of planting the canola with a seed drill on 15-inch centers as he did for this crop. This should provide for better seed placement, the Kansas producer said.

Date: 7/1/2013

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