By RACHAEL GRAY firstname.lastname@example.org
Along the River Road between Deerfield and Lakin, families and farmers have stopped along the south side of the road to inspect a field of vibrant yellow blooms.
Fred Ritsema, a Kearny County farmer and owner of Lakin Dairy, said his canola field has been in bloom.
Ritsema, who is from Holland, used to grow the crop there and decided to try his luck with the Kansas soil. Since canola is a winter crop, Ritsema thinks more farmers may be interested in growing it.
Ritsema has farmed in Kearny County since 1997. Growing corn and alfalfa has been difficult in recent years due to the drought.
"This has gotten a lot of farmers' attention. I think in the near future more farmers will be turning to winter crops instead of summer crops," he said.
Ritsema said it's important to take a chance.
"I think it's important someone sticks his neck out there and tries something else," he said, adding that in 20 years this region may not produce corn.
The canola will be ready to harvest in about a month, he said.
Dale Kuhn, from Kuhn Harvesting, will be harvesting the crop.
He's never harvested canola in Kansas, but has done fields in Texas.
"We'll start in Texas towards the end of the week here. We've never done any in Kansas," Kuhn said.
To harvest canola, the crop is swathed when the seed pods are starting to dry down. It takes five to seven days to dry down to be durable, Kuhn said.
Then a pick up header is used on a combine to pick the rows and thrash the plant.
"That is how we do it in Texas," he said.
Kuhn also thinks canola will become more popular in Kansas.
"I would think that it will gain some strength as we go on here. It's just going to take some time. It's moving steadily north all the time," he said.
Ritsema said the crop has the potential to offer double the profit of wheat. He has 125 acres of canola.
"The price is close to twice as much as wheat. The profits could be twice as high," he said.
Ritsema said the plant survived the freeze and snow two weeks ago.
"It's better during the freeze. It's kind of hardy," he said.
Ritsema said time will tell the outcome of the harvest and the profit he'll make off the field.
"We don't know how harvest will go. But now it looks good," he said.
Canola is grown primarily in regions of Western Canada, with some acreage being planted in Ontario and the Pacific Northwest and north-central United States. Canola is also grown in other countries, including Europe and Australia, according to the Great Plains Canola Association.
Canola acreage has increased rapidly in the United States to over 1 million acres. Climate and conditions on the Great Plains provide an excellent opportunity to grow winter canola as a rotational crop with winter wheat. Acreage in the region is increasing as farmers realize that rotating canola with winter wheat can reduce weed pressures on their wheat crop and increases wheat yields in subsequent years, the site said.