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Immature canola suffers yield, quality setbacks

(Resource News International) — Immature canola crops in Western Canada were believed to have suffered both yield and quality downgrades from a significant frost that occurred overnight Thursday, according to industry participants. A frost forecast for overnight Friday for all of the Prairies was seen as contributing to the downgrades. 

“There was definitely a lot of canola in both Alberta and Saskatchewan that was behind in terms of crop development,” said Ron Frost, a grain and oilseed analyst with Agri-Trend Marketing and Frost Forecast Consulting. 

A late start to seeding, combined with cool and wet weather during the spring and summer growing season, had left canola well behind in growth, he said.

“At this time of year, a lot of producers had already been hoping to be at least swathing their canola, not waiting for it to ripen still,” Frost said.

The delays in harvesting also were tied to the inability of producers to get machinery onto the fields to get harvest operations underway, Frost said.

There were numerous instances of producers having to pull stuck machinery out of fields due to the extremely muddy soils, he said, and some was said to have “sunk right up to the axles and beyond.”

Mike Jubinville, an analyst with ProFarmer Canada, said there are going to be quality downgrade issues from the frost event, but to what extent is still to be determined.

“Immature canola fields will have a high green seed count, and it’s those crops that are particularly vulnerable to quality downgrading and yield loss,” he said.

The more mature the canola crop, the less frost damage there will be, said Bill Craddock, a southern Manitoba producer and commodity trader.

“If the crop was immature and still standing, the frost will have certainly caused some damage,” he said. “Green canola standing has a much higher risk of frost damage, as the pods are more open to the cold air.”

However, if the canola was lying in swath, there is a density that will protect the pods from allowing the frost to penetrate, Craddock said.

Any canola in swath for at least three to four days will also see the seeds in the pod become harder, which will also reduce the risk of frost damage, he said.

“We probably lost more in quality than we did in yields,” Frost speculated.

Whether producers decide to swath their canola fields or straight-combine, Frost said, there will be some shattering of the pods and, in turn, lost production.

Shattering, particularly in the case of canola, is when the pods break apart before reaching the combine and fall to the ground, Craddock said. “You can lose significant yields as a result of shattering.”

Maturing process over

With the frost event of Sept. 16 and overnight Sept.17 in western Canada, the canola crops maturing process has come to a halt.

“For all intents and purposes, the frost which hit over 50 per cent of the Canadian Prairies and which will hit again overnight Friday, has brought the growing season to an abrupt termination… meaning canola, as well as other crops, will not mature any more,” Jubinville said.

But producers in Western Canada are still expected to harvest those canola fields.

A lot of producers were already desiccating fields in a number of regions of Manitoba, Craddock said, adding he suspected some of that was also going on in other parts of the Prairies.

As long as the colder readings and the wet conditions did not bring a lot of snow accumulations, Frost said, producers were likely to begin harvesting more aggressively.

“With the cold readings, the ground will harden, allowing the farm machinery to access fields.”

With cooler temperatures, there was also likely to be less rutting from the combines in the muddier areas of Alberta and Saskatchewan, which could require some special attention by producers before seeding the next season’s crop, Frost said.

Producers harvesting in October is not necessarily unusual, both Craddock and Frost noted.

The last couple of fall seasons in Western Canada have spoiled producers to some degree, Jubinville said.

“We’ve had some pretty late frosts because of the warmer-than-usual fall periods, and it appears we’ve been a bit spoiled as a result.”

In some canola growing regions of eastern Saskatchewan and western Manitoba, Craddock said, frost would normally make an appearance at the end of August.

“With it now being the middle of September, we definitely bought some extra time.”

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