Using Canola as a crop rotation for winter wheat

Article from Josh Bushong- NW Area Agronomy Specialist

Years like this make it very challenging to make critical decisions on what will work on your farming operation. Due to low commodity prices, managing farm inputs and deciding what to plant can be very daunting tasks. Many producers are rethinking or possibly considering planting canola for the first time this year. Winter canola has been successfully grown in north central Oklahoma for the past 13 years. There have been a few instances where drought, spring freezes, or other weather events have limited production, but as I recall the wheat didn’t fare much better in those cases either. Past performance has shown us that if it is a good year for wheat it will be a good year for canola as well.

Weed control in continuous wheat systems can be very challenging. What few options there are have become even fewer. OSU has documented that some populations of ryegrass and cheat in Oklahoma have developed resistance to ALS herbicides that are commonly applied to wheat. Weeds can cause significant economic damage by not only limiting yield by competition but also by increasing price discounts at the grain elevator through dockage or foreign material (FM). While dockage is usually just a weight deduction FM can cause significant price reductions. I have seen instances where the wheat was so trashy that a grain elevator wouldn’t even let the producer dump the load and in other cases the wheat had to be sold as mixed grain.

When penciling out budgets for the fall, it is important to not only factor in the production from this season, but also consider how canola can add value to your operation for years to come. Many wheat producers have grown canola for the main purpose of cleaning up weedy wheat fields. Since canola is a winter broadleaf crop it serves this purpose great. The best option to control winter annual grassy weeds like feral rye, ryegrass, cheat, bromes, jointed goatgrass, rescuegrass, wild oats, etc. is to utilize different herbicide modes of action that are not available in a continuous wheat system. In canola there are graminicides (herbicides that control grasses) like Select, Assure, and Poast as well as non-selective herbicides like glyphosate if a Roundup Ready cultivar is used. These herbicides have shown to be very effective in controlling these hard to manage grassy weeds. Just one year in canola can reduce dockage and FM in the following wheat crops by 85-100%.

In addition to cleaning up troublesome weeds, canola can also increase the amount of forage and grain yield of the following wheat crops. OSU research has shown a significant 20-25% increase in wheat forage and 10-15% increase in grain yields. Wheat producers have reported a 10-50% yield increase in wheat yields. A wheat stocker operator in Kingfisher county mentioned that his stockers average 50 pounds per head more when grazed on wheat fields that followed canola compared to stockers grazing on continuous wheat.

When debating on whether or not to plant canola this fall, remember that adding it to your crop rotation will add economic benefits for years to come. Sometimes it is difficult to see the value of cleaner fields, more forage, and increased yields. Canola is a great weed management tool and it can improve our wheat’s quality and quantity. Benefits of Adding Canola into the Rotation Josh Bushong NW Area Agronomy Specialist Oklahoma State University August 2016

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