Average canola yields seen amid maturity concerns

(Resource News International) — Canola crop development in Western Canada has improved in recent weeks despite a slow start, but industry sources still only anticipate average yields. Uneven germination and late crop maturity were cited as potential yield-lowering risks.

Generally, canola crops are roughly 10 days behind normal development, but advanced considerably in the past couple of weeks when many western Canadian areas saw warm, sunny weather, said Chris Anderson, vice-president of crop production with the Canola Council of Canada in Winnipeg.

“If we had near normal conditions from here on out, I suspect development would still be a little bit behind, but canola is a crop that has an amazing ability to compensate for its environment. If the weather is quite good we won’t have any problems in terms of maturity,” Anderson said.

That would change, of course, in the advent of poor weather. Late crop maturity would increase the risk of exposure to early fall frosts, especially in areas where the growing season is shorter, he added.

“There is still certainly some amount of additional risk. Frost is always a danger but even more so now with some later crop development,” Anderson said.

“There are areas with good crops and areas with poor crops. I’m not hearing about a lot of areas with bumper crops so I think we’re just tracking for an average crop right now,” he concluded.

Darren Frank, market analyst with FarmLink Marketing Solutions in Winnipeg, said the consulting company lowered its average canola yield estimates to 29.5 bushels per acre, down from an earlier June estimate of 31.0 bushels per acre. That compares to 2007-08 yields of 26.4 bushels per acre.

The reason is mainly because of the uneven germination reported by many growers.

Even with good weather now, some yield loss will still occur because there is never an ideal time to harvest the crop, Frank said. If a grower harvests sooner than later, the less developed crops will not be mature but if the grower harvests later, the advanced plants will shell, he explained.

Nevertheless, Frank said crop conditions can still improve and will likely need to just to reach a yield of 29.5.

Total canola production in 2008-09 was pegged by Frank at 10.25 million tonnes, with an estimated carry-out of one million tonnes. The amount is high, he said — a record, in fact — but record usage is also likely in the coming year, given the way domestic crush levels have been climbing. He pegged domestic crush at 4.7 million tonnes but said other sources have been using a figure closer to 4.5 million tonnes.

The wild card estimates will be export and domestic crush, he said.

In an updated supply/demand report dated July 2, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada pegged total 2008-09 production at 10.1 million tonnes.

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