Hobart, Oklahoma farmer Brent Straub, 33, planted approximately 1,700 acres of winter canola in north Kiowa County last fall. He hopes to capitalize on the crop’s ability to reduce weed pressure in subsequent wheat crops and he likes the price available this spring.
Straub, who farms with his father Gary, is a fourth generation farmer whose ancestors settled west of Hobart near Lone Wolf. This is the first year the family has planted winter canola. Timely rains have given them a promise of good yields this spring.
"We planted Sumner, a generic canola variety," he said. "After surviving the bad drought in 2012, the excellent crop insurance program obtainable by planting canola was the deciding factor causing us to plant canola.
"This has been a good year for canola production and we are excited about planting more next fall and trying some Roundup Ready varieties. We will harvest this crop in a week or s and expect to be getting a good price for it, which certainly helps our income."
Straub had plenty of help in learning about growing winter canola during the growing season from Josh Bushong, Oklahoma State University Extension canola specialist, and Heath Sanders, oilseed agronomist for the Producers Cooperative Oil Mill in Oklahoma City.
He has vivid and unique memories of planting his first crop of canola.
"We dusted in the crop and then it rained Oct. 8, 2011," he said. "That was also the day our second son, Tate, was born." It rained 10 inches between that date and January 1, 2012.
Straub and his wife, Amie, have two sons, Noah, 4, and Tate, 6 months.
Like many other farmers in the Southern Plains, the Straub family is learning about the advantages of growing winter canola, a relatively new crop for the area pioneered by Dr. Tom Peeper, OSU agronomist emeritus. More than a decade ago, Peeper was seeking new ways to reduce perennial weed infestations in winter wheat. He and a team of agricultural scientists from OSU and Kansas State University developed winter canola varieties from canola, a spring crop grown in Canada and the northern United States.
Canola has a large taproot that digs deeply into dry soil seeking subsoil moisture. It’s an oilseed crop with an oil content of more than 40 percent. When processed, it yields highly-sought, nutritious cooking oil, oil for biofuels and livestock feed. More important for winter wheat producers, it can be planted and harvested with the same equipment used for small grains. Canola production also reduces the presence of perennial weeds like cheat and wild oats. The presence of these weed seeds in wheat taken to the grain terminal causes serious price dockage for wheat farmers,