Just about every element possible worked against Dustin Williams’ Nexera canola crop on his southwest Manitoba farm in 2019.
Cool, dry conditions at seeding, stagey crop development, multiple insect pressure, hail, poor harvest weather, too much rain, snow and ice. And then, just as the swathed crop was about to be combined, strong winds blew the swaths around, shattering yield from a potential 35 bushels to about 15 bushels per acre.
“You name it — just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong,” says Williams in a late November interview as he faced the reality that about 100 acres of mostly waterlogged crop, anchored by about three inches of ice, would remain in the field all winter.
“It could be much worse,” says Williams, who along with his wife, Laura McDougald-Williams, operates the 4,700 acre Ash Haven Farms, near Souris. “I was very lucky to get as much combined as I did.
Williams has been a long-time supporter of Nexera canola. It fit well into a specific management strategy on his farm, especially with all the market uncertainty in 2019. He had a solid plan on paper and then weather and environmental factors took over.
Most years he would seed about 30 per cent of the farm — usually less productive soils — to Nexera. The yields would be a bit lower, perhaps about 35 bushels per acre, but then the $1.50 to $2 per bushel price premium would actually increase or at least match the returns per acre of a higher yielding variety.
“Nexera has represented a very good opportunity on our farm probably seven out of 10 years,” says Williams,” The price premium makes a difference.” One of the weak links he realized this year: he’d like to see more varieties with improved pod shatter resistance. For 2020 only one of seven Nexera varieties is rated with pod shatter resistance.
“That’s one feature more Nexera varieties need to offer producers is pod shatter resistance,” says Williams. “Having that option to straight cut the canola would have made a huge difference especially with adverse growing conditions this year.”
Acreage up 40 per cent
And on that note, Darrin Hicks, Corteva grains and oils channel manager, says the company is gearing up to meet increased demand for the high-quality speciality oil, with an expected and impressive 40 per cent increase in Nexera canola contracted acres in 2020.
“On one hand it is gratifying to see a growing demand among customers for this high quality, and healthy canola oil product,” says Hicks. “More companies in the food service sector recognize the value of the high-stability Omega 9 oil that offers a longer frying life that is increasingly demanded by consumers and the food industry.”
On the other hand, Hicks says it is a balancing act to match production with that demand. To meet the growing demand for oil, Corteva partners Richardson International, Viterra, Louis Dreyfus and Bunge are offering attractive contracts to growers for the coming season. While contracts may vary depending on factors such as delivery distance, on average they will offer between $1.50 and $2 per bushel price premiums over commodity canola futures prices.
“End-use customers want this high quality oil, and we do our best to provide growers with top-performing canola varieties,” says Hicks. For the coming season, Corteva’s Brevant seeds will add two new varieties to its Nexera portfolio — 1028RR a new Roundup Ready variety and 2028CL a new Clearfield variety, both with clubroot resistance. All together the company has four Roundup Ready and three Clearfield varieties in its specialty canola contracting program. They hope to include Liberty Link varieties by 2022.
“These high-yielding canola hybrid genetics provide each farm choices to meet their agronomic needs — from clubroot and blackleg resistant traits to a selection of herbicide tolerant systems,” says Hicks. “It means growers have the benefit of disease resistance and an effective weed control that ultimately enhances the yield potential for canola.”