Canola challenges Oklahoma wheat
By Lacey Newlin
Farmers in northwest Oklahoma are planning on harvesting a different shade of yellow this year. Canola, an introduced species, has breached the tradition of golden wheat lining the dirt roads and highways of Alfalfa County. To adapt to the shift in crop, the local cooperative will make room for it this harvest.
The Burlington Cooperative grain elevators were built in the mid-1950s and have a grain capacity of 1,774,000 bushels, according to Burlington Cooperative Manager Robbie Newman. In the years since it was built, canola has never been stored there. With three years of a devastating drought, many farmers in the community turned away from its traditional cereal grain for the mustard seed alternative.
Just like farmers in the area, the cooperative has to learn more about the crop in order to cater to its unique storage needs.
“Our biggest challenge is because of its oil content we will not be able to store it in typical ways,” Newman said.
For instance the time-span the seeds will be housed in the elevator will be much shorter than that of wheat because of oil residue and the risk of hot spots developing. The U.S. Canola Association suggests maximum moisture content of 9 percent to keep hot spots from emerging.
Since canola is heat sensitive it is usually kept in a smaller storage bin. Newman says he plans on using a smaller bin for the crop this year for this reason.
Placing canola in a bin can be quite tricky. Heat has an immense effect on its drying process. The U.S. Canola Association suggests opening the top hatch of a storage bin for aeration of the seeds and to release heat and moisture.
On the grower side, farmers will need to seal cracks and holes in trucks because canola is a much smaller seed that wheat with greater risk of leakage. Along the same lines, canola is very lightweight meaning the seeds could blow out of a truck easily if not covered with a tarp or something similar.
Will canola take over as a chief crop in the county? According to Newman, wheat will still be king but he doesn’t count canola out. Newman expects canola to still be planted in the area in the future just as more of a rotational crop.
Newman says he is holding out for some moisture to salvage what little wheat crop there is. In the loom of a disappointing wheat harvest, Newman insists this is not the worst crop he has seen. He recounts a crop that was ready to harvest several years ago but flooding conditions ruined its chances. With this he suggests that things could be much worst than they are right now. This optimism could be just what wheat growers need to yield a bright future for the crop.
Lacey Newlin can be reached by phone at 620-227-1858 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.