A new drought map came out this week and all of Kansas still faces drought conditions. It's tough news for the Kansas economy, where one in five jobs is related to agriculture.

And as farmers approach harvest season, they're worried about more than just the traditional winter wheat crops.  Winter canola is also in trouble.  It's used to make a popular cooking oil.

A team of farmers, ag scientists and state agents from Kansas and Oklahoma spent two days this week checking out canola fields across the state. The result isn't very good.

"The condition of the canola is a lot like with the wheat," said Mike Stamm, a K-State canola breeder. "It's pretty drought stressed.

Canola is one of the fastest growing crops in popularity in Kansas  with farmers tripling the number of acres they planted in the last three years.

Drought Map 5.15.14

But it's vulnerable to extreme swings of temperature.

"With the drought that we're currently in, as well as the colder winter temperatures that we had, that shortened up the crop. Because it really had to recover when it started growing again in the spring," said Stamm. "And we also saw some damage from the extreme heat that we had last week, when temperatures were up in the hundreds."

This time of year canola plants should be about waist high. But in the fields, they're falling six inches to a foot and a half short of that, some only reaching knee height.

"But it is a pretty resilient crop and there is going to be some canola harvested," Stamm said.

While fields currently have about half the canola per acre that farmers would like to see, they say the plants have a tendency to spread out and grow more seed pods in compensation.  

"It really depends on what the conditions are for grain fill," said Stamm.
Which leaves these experts and a lot of farmers in Kansas hoping for moderate temperatures and a least a little rain.

"The next 15 to 20 days are going to be really critical," he said.
Kansas farmers say using canola in rotation with wheat crops can lead to bigger wheat yields by cutting down on diseases, weeds and insects that prefer wheat. Last year, Harper County alone had 23,000 acres of canola.