Decisions on late planted canola

With October underway, planters will be running through the field on a daily basis.  For canola fields, planting should be nearing completion.  While planting conditions have been great for many others have not had as good of luck.  Additionally, even growers that have had good planting conditions, these have not lasted for long in a lot of locations.  Good conditions have quickly changed into heavy pounding rains, good moisture followed by rapid drying and crusting, armyworm feeding, or more recent flooded conditions.  With this, many growers have been left with a decision of whether it is too late to plant, either initially or with replants.   

There are quite a few factors that need to go on when making this decision.  The first is, if growers are replanting, what kind of stand do they currently have.  For canola, often a descent stand with good fall growth is a good stand.  The hardest part of growing canola in Oklahoma seems to be getting a good stand after winter.  Marginal stands with good growth will be a lower risk and potentially higher reward than better stands and less growth.  Canola does not need a lot of individual plants to make a good to descent crop.  It has the potential to branch and utilize space in a thinner stand to develop more yield per plant later in the season.  However, grower should make sure they there is at least enough canola to make a stand in the spring even if winter kill reaches nearly 30-50% of current stands.  If growers decide to terminate their current stand, they need to evaluate both time and conditions on whether a replant will be successful.  With the critical time for canola planting closing in on us, growers will need to make planting a top priority in the coming week.  With descent soil moisture and forecasted mild conditions, growers should have until the end of the week (October 15th) to get canola in the ground and growing to still have a good chance at getting a good crop.  Without soil moisture, “dusting in” this late will be a major risk.  With cooler conditions on the horizon, canola growth will be severely restricted and lag behind the potential it had a couple weeks ago.  Planting after the 15th should not be advised, except for in very specific situations.  Planting this late in the fall could heavily rely on the first major freeze event occur well into the month of December for the crop to be very successful.  An early- to mid-November freeze could do in a later planted crop. 

The second thing a grower needs to evaluate is the planting conditions.  This will be true for both initial and replanted canola.  Good moisture, with limited drying could allow the grower to plant a little shallower than they would have in the last week or two.  This shallower planting will allow the canola to emerge quick and get better growth compared to planting near 1”.  Three quarters to a half inch is a good depth for canola into good soil conditions.  Without this good soil moisture at or near the surface, growers will have to plant much deeper. This deeper planting will make getting a quick stand in these late conditions more difficult. 

The final thing growers need to be thinking about, especially planting late, is other management practices.  These will include weed management, fertility, and pest management.  With late planting, crop stresses should be minimized to allow for unimpeded growth.  Therefore, growers need to make sure they are starting with a clean system, making sure they have optimum fertility, and making sure to scout and spray early for vegetative feeders (particularly foliar feeding worms).  

If growers can get canola planted timely and make sure to minimize other stress, many should still be able to have a great canola year this year.  With potentially better costs on the horizon, it is looking like a good canola crop will be a great cash crop for Oklahoma this year. 

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