Josh Bushong, a canola specialist for OSU Cooperative Extension, says canola can produce yields as high as wheat and has the potential to yield higher cash returns. This depends, of course, on market forces that can sway as much as wheat does when the wind is really blowing.
Farmers can rotate wheat and canola, which Bushong says acts as a weed management strategy. Canola production has blossomed as rapidly as a prairie fire, increasing dramatically since 2010. About 275,000 acres were planted in canola in the Southern Plains states in the current growing season. In Oklahoma, 40,000 acres were planted in 2009. That number more than tripled by 2011. Because it grows over winter — like Oklahoma's wheat — canola isn't forced to survive the hot, dry months of summer.
When a major new employer comes to Oklahoma, such as the General Electric global research center announced last month, it triggers headlines and excitement over high-paying jobs. Agricultural developments tend to be less visible and play out over time. But they are no less valuable. And no research center can provide the fleeting beauty of the canola crop in early May.
Every March, we urge readers to drive east and see the native redbuds in bloom. They offer beauty but not economic value. This week, drive west and see something very beautiful and also quite valuable.