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Canola field tours see effects of spring freeze, hail

By Jennifer M. Latzke

Mike Stamm, Kansas State University canola breeder, points out a segment of the canola plant with undeveloped seed pods. This is the result of a freeze in April that stopped the plant's development. Above the segment, though, is regrowth and pods that should provide harvestable seeds. (Journal photo by Jennifer M. Latzke.)

Drought, a late spring freeze, and then hail all challenged canola production this year in southwest Kansas.

K-State Research and Extension hosted canola field tours in Gray and Ford counties May 14. Mike Stamm, KSU canola breeder, led the tours and discussed the crop’s progress with producers at the stops near Montezuma and Dodge City, Kansas.

At a field northwest of Montezuma, tour participants were able to see the effects of an April freeze on flowering canola.

Stamm showed the tour how the indeterminate canola plant continued to grow and flower and set seed pods after the freeze. But, at the time of the freeze, a segment of the pods on the raceme were aborted, which will affect final crop yield.

“We also see some stem splitting, not a lot, but if this crop were to get big and heavy you could see some lodging at harvest,” Stamm said. Cool weather was exactly what was needed for the canola to continue to flower and set pods.

The Montezuma field was planted to 30-inch rows following irrigated corn. Stamm cautioned that if farmers want to follow corn with canola they must be sure to harvest the corn early enough to plant canola, typically August to the first 10 days of September, and manage the residue so that the canola can establish a stand. Stamm said canola likes bare soil around its seeds, and if producers want to use it in a no-till situation they should use some means of moving residue from the row so the seed has good soil contact.

“The less residue out there, the easier it is to keep that crown set lower to the ground, where it can have more protection from the cold due to radiant heat from the bare soil,” Stamm said.

Really, though, canola follows a wheat crop easier, he said.

“It follows wheat a little easier because farmers aren’t limited on the time following the harvest of wheat and planting canola,” Stamm said.

John Holman, cropping systems agronomist at the Southwest Area Extension Office, Garden City, Kansas, said the rule of thumb he follows is to plant winter canola a full month earlier than planting winter wheat. The earlier farmers can get their winter canola in, the better, he said.

For those who are interested in planting canola using 30-inch rows, Stamm advised they reduce their seeding rates and use an open pollinated variety.

“You almost need to be able to singulate the seed because canola likes to compete and thins itself out,” he said. “But if it gets too thin, then it doesn’t grow to a large enough size to get it through winter.” There are several companies now offering canola seed plates for planters, he added.

The Montezuma field was planted to Chrome, a French conventional hybrid that has potential for high yields in Kansas. However, it needs to get planted fairly early so it can establish a stand before winter comes along, Stamm said. Hybrid winter canolas seem to do better under irrigation than open pollinated varieties, he added.

Winter canola can grow quite well under limited irrigation, and the Montezuma field had about 8 inches applied through the year. Studies out of New Mexico State University show that the optimal range, Stamm said, is from 9 to 12 inches. Any more irrigation and yields tend to taper off.

As for pest pressures, Stamm said that this spring saw pretty low pressures from cabbage aphids or false cinch bugs. He warned producers that really warm springs may attract variegated cutworms, which cause pod abortion.

Down the road, at the next field southwest of Dodge City, the tour saw the effects of the May 11 hailstorm.

The field was the farmer’s first attempt at canola, and he no-tilled his DK4614 variety into corn stalks with an air seeder. In this field, large amounts of crop residue kept the crop from developing a solid stand, and it also showed signs of some winterkill due to higher crown set above the residue. The field was planted Sept. 30, the very last day to qualify for crop insurance on canola.

Canola can recover from hail damage, given time and cool temperatures, explained Holman.

“It will still make a crop after the hail, it still tries to put flowers on,” he said. “Where the stem is cut, the crop won’t tiller like wheat. Rather, it will grow from a lower growing point and extend out.”

At 60 days from flower to maturity, it’s very likely that the field will have multiple seed maturities and need a desiccant for harvest.

“Essentially you’ll have two crops,” Stamm said. “One ready with pods that are there now and have set seed. The second crop after could be a problem because it will be greener.” The crop will need cool nights to let it rest, but warm days to let those seed pods mature, he added.

Joni Wilson with ADM also discussed marketing of this year’s crop and Heath Sanders, canola field specialist with the Great Plains Canola Association, covered harvest options.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached by phone at 620-227-1807 or by email at

Date: 5/26/2014


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