Washington Oilseed Cropping Systems

The Washington State University Oilseed Cropping Systems Research and Extension Program, in partnership with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, is committed to supporting the grower and industry-based movement to diversify cropping system agronomics and markets through increased adoption and production of oilseed crops.

Oilseed News and Updates

Spring Canola Nitrogen Rate Calculator Release

The N rate calculator uses estimated yield and soil N supply to determine the amount of N fertilizer required. The estimated yield is used to determine the total amount of N required to achieve a particular yield goal. The soil N supply is determined using the soil organic matter content, the soil mineral N amount from a soil test, and the proceeding crop. The proceeding crop can serve as a N debit that removes N from the system or a N credit that adds to the total supply. Legumes serve as a credit, whereas winter wheat serves as a debit. The soil organic matter content and tillage method are used to calculate N mineralization. Nitrogen mineralization is the process during which soil organic matter is converted to plant-available N. Mineralization depends on the microbes present in the soil and varies depending on soil moisture and temperature. The soil mineral N is the total plant-available nitrogen in the forms of nitrate and ammonium in the soil at the time of the soil test.

How Deep is Too Deep to Plant Winter Canola?

Winter canola establishment has always been a challenge in Washington. Canola prefers to be seeded shallow (0.5-1.5”) and in good moisture. The dry summers of the inland Pacific Northwest that cause moisture to recede deeper into the soil profile can lead to poor germination and emergence. One strategy for improving stand establishment is to target early seeding dates. However, early seeding dates can increase the susceptibility of the canola to fall drought and winter kill. When considering later seeding dates, the challenge is to put the canola seed into moisture without going too deep.

Our Mission

Global increases in energy demand over supply have spurred a tremendous demand for biofuels produced from crops. Capture the sun’s energy in crop plants, take those crops and convert them into usable fuels such as ethanol, biodiesel or combustible dry biomass. Decrease our dependence on foreign oil, keep our energy dollars at home, and stimulate the farm economy. And reduce global warming by capturing carbon dioxide. Washington citizens are yearning for home-grown biofuels and the Washington state legislature and state agencies have committed investments in our research and extension programs to help make that happen.

The concept is simple and enticing, but the impacts are controversial and the execution of such a major shift in regional agricultural and energy systems is an extreme challenge. While the Midwestern U.S. simply used their current crops of corn and soybeans as biofuel feedstocks, the Western U.S. is faced with a more daunting task. We are starting at square one by evaluating and adapting alternative crop feedstocks, with the goal of integrating them into existing cropping systems, producing them economically and environmentally sustainable without outcompeting our goal of food production, and in the end ensuring that we develop systems that result in a positive energy balance!

Answers to these questions are to come as we embark on this mission with cautious optimism, and with full knowledge that any real progress will require a sustained global commitment to the vision.