Wheat Beat to a Different Drum with Karen Sowers & Ian Clark

Field of canola.

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Show Notes & Resources Mentioned:

Contact Information:

Contact Karen Sowers by email at ksowers@wsu.edu or by phone at (808) 283-7013. Ian Clark can be contacted by email at iclark010@gmail.com.

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Episode Transcription:

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Drew Lyon: Hello, and welcome to the WSU Wheat Beat Podcast. I’m your host, Drew Lyon, and I want to thank you for joining me as we explore the world of small grains production and research at Washington State University. We have weekly discussions with researchers from WSU and the USDA-ARS to provide you with insights into the latest research on wheat and barley production.

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Drew Lyon: My guests this week are Karen Sowers and Ian Clark. Karen is the Extension and Outreach Specialist with the Washington Oilseed Crop Systems Project at WSU. Hi, Karen.

Karen Sowers: Hi, Drew.

Drew Lyon: And, Ian is the fifth generation actually farming on the family farm near Albion. Ian recently received his MS degree from WSU in the development of perennial wheat. Hello, Ian.

Ian Clark: Hey, Drew.

Drew Lyon: So, this week, we’re going to talk about canola. Karen actually suggested we call this the “Wheat Beat to a Different Drum.”

Karen Sowers: Had to do it.

Drew Lyon: Which was a clever idea, but you know, the people growing canola are the same people who are growing wheat. So, I think it’s fully legitimate to talk about canola on the Wheat Beat Podcast. Start things off, Karen. I understand the Washington Oilseed Crop Existence Project has been in place for ten years now at WSU. Can you give us a brief overview of what the project’s been doing?

Karen Sowers: Oh, Drew. The project, like you said, did start ten years ago, and it was funded with state legislature funds for, in regards to the renewable fuel standard. And, we started out looking at a dozen different crops and looking more towards the biofuels feedstock end of things, and now it’s kind of developed into a project that’s narrowed down to spring and winter canola, camelina, and mustard as the focus. There’s – at any given year – there’s 10 to 12 faculty and staff on the project and several graduate students. We’re looking at anything canola production related, and that starts with the research and then extends to extension in eastern Washington, primarily.

Drew Lyon: And, canola, you’re looking at both winter canolas and spring canolas, right?

Karen Sowers: Yes, we are.

Drew Lyon: How do those, what’s the difference between the two, for our listeners?

Karen Sowers: Good question. Winter canola is typically planted in August, anywhere from mid-July to mid-September. And then, it’s biennial, so then, it’ll die back in the wintertime and come back in the spring, and harvested, typically, in July. And then, spring canola is grown usually in higher rainfall situations, like here in Pullman, and it’s planted in the spring, as soon as farmers can get in the field. And, it’s harvested, typically, August timeframe.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So, both winter and spring. Ian, what’s your experience with canola, and why did you decide to try growing it on your farm here near Albion?

Ian Clark: Well, we’ve grown it, now, for about five years, and it’s something you’d have a little bit of knowledge here with, Drew. It’s our, we had a real big, we have a real big Italian ryegrass issue. And so, we grew it for the Round-up ready technology, basically. But, you know, we also are always trying to look for a new crop to grow, and commodity prices are kind of volatile. And, it’s kind of another buffer, kind of you’re looking away from the wheat market a little bit. And, it’s kind of held its price the last year, which has been nice. But, it was really the tool for the, being able to spray Round-up to deal with the Italian ryegrass.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So, you bring up the technology available with canola, so there’s Round-up ready, there’s some other types, too. What are those, and how much you use those?

Ian Clark: Yeah. There’s Clearfield and, oh, Karen would know a whole lot more of the…

Karen Sowers: Liberty Link.

Ian Clark: There’s the Liberty Link with the glufosinate. Glufosinate, is that right? Yeah. But, for us, we have pretty much, we’ve only used the Round-up ready. We’ve never used the clear field or the Liberty Link.

Karen Sowers: Yeah, something to add to that, Drew, is it’s for weed control, but there’s a lot of residual herbicides that can be an issue and broadleaf crops. So, if the canola has that particular trait, like an SU residual tolerance, you can go back on ground that’s had SUs on it. Which is pretty common in wheat rotation. So, that’s a powerful tool as well.

Drew Lyon: So, it has a fit. Might bring several benefits to a crop rotation involving small grains. So, how does the Washington Oilseed Cropping Existence Project interact with growers, or how do you try to interact with growers in your project?

Karen Sowers: Definitely. That’s actually a key, key component of the project. You know, when this started, it was with research projects. And then, that information gain had to be disseminated to growers and actually, like Ag industry, like crop consultants and seed companies, in some way. So, it’s a wide range from field tours. We have annual winter workshops. We now have large-scale variety trials, winter and spring canola. Those are at half a dozen locations in eastern Washington. So, those all provide opportunities to convey any research information to farmers. And also, hear back from them as to what research needs there are.

Drew Lyon: Do you have some dates that you could share with our listeners?

Karen Sowers: We do. We’ve got our, again, these are one-day workshops. They’re a full day. So, they’ll be January 22nd in Hartline. January 24th in the Tri-Cities, and January 25th in Colfax.

Drew Lyon: Okay. Excellent. Ian, how has this project helped you with canola production on your farm?

Ian Clark: Well, you know, first and foremost, when I was thinking about it yesterday, and we actually farm next to WSU, and so we’ve kind of been able to rubberneck WSU growing canola for quite a few years before we even grew it. And so, we were kind of fortunate on that one just to know we could grow canola. But, beyond that, we would go to the workshops and a lot of your questions like seeding rate and fertility and variety selection and whatnot. Really, you know, it’s helped quite a bit to grow a new crop where we really had no idea what we were doing.

Drew Lyon: You find that other farmers are coming up and talking to you, asking you questions about growing canola?

Ian Clark: Yeah, yeah. Definitely. They’re, this last year in particular since wheat price has been down so much. It’s been, yeah, there’s been a lot of farmers say, “Well, you know, what do you do? What’s your timing? What’s your, this is or that? What do we have to watch out for?” So, yeah.

Drew Lyon: Okay. So, if you were going to host a canola research project, Karen tells us that’s one of the things they do in the project. What would you want the project to be about?

Ian Clark: Well, personally, my interest right now is in population. I think that we have a lot of work to do on our soils in looking at plant population, and we don’t have it figured out at this, on our farm [ laughs ].

Karen Sowers: That’s a good point, Ian. Drew, we have Ian Burke with WSU. He’s actually just started on a project using a Monosem singulating planter to look at just that. So far, it’s just in spring canola. Whether or not that’ll go to winter canola, but he plans on putting trials out again next spring. So, he may be looking you up.

Drew Lyon: Well, it sounds like there’s a lot of interesting work going on. If our listeners want to go and learn more about the Washington Oilseed Cropping Existence Program, where can they go to find more information?

Karen Sowers: We have a website, css.wsu.edu/oilseeds. And then, we have a Facebook page, WSU Oilseeds.

Drew Lyon: All right. Thank you very much, Karen.

Karen Sowers: Thanks, Drew.

Drew Lyon: And Ian.

Ian Clark: Thank you.

Drew Lyon: Thanks for listening to the WSU Wheat Beat podcast. If you have questions for us, that you’d like to hear addressed on future episodes, please email me at drew.lyon@wsu.edu. You can find us online at smallgrains.wsu.edu. You can also find us on social media on Facebook and Twitter @WSUSmallGrains. Subscribe to this show through iTunes or your favorite podcasting app. The WSU Wheat Beat podcast is a production of CAHNRS Communications in the College of Agricultural Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. I’m Drew Lyon; we’ll see you next week.

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