Canadian Frost Hits Canola Quality Hard

The canola crop in Canada’s top two growing provinces may be the lowest quality in five years after widespread frost halted growth in immature plants, a Canola Council of Canada official said Sept. 22.

Excessive spring rain delayed planting in Saskatchewan and Alberta, leaving much of the immature oil-seed crop vulnerable with unripe, green seeds when freezing temperatures set in last week.

Frost will also reduce yield in up to one-quarter of crops in areas such as western Saskatchewan, said Clint Jurke, the canola council’s agronomy specialist in the region.

“The frost was pretty hard (Sept. 16 and 17) so it’s that kind of frost that will severely limit both quality and yield,” Jurke told Reuters.

Much of the crop had not been swathed, or cut, before the frost, which would have allowed it to dry and better withstand damage. But even canola that farmers had swathed a few days before the frost may have been wet and vulnerable, Jurke said.

Production from Saskatchewan and Alberta looks to be of the lowest quality in at least five years and possibly since 2004, when an early frost hit the crop, he said.

That situation mirrors the poor state of Western Canada’s wheat and barley, which the Canadian Wheat Board said on Monday looked to be the lowest quality in six years.

The veg oil industry is also closely watching prospects for frost in Chinese soy-producing areas.

At least one Canadian grain-and oilseed-handling company has slightly lowered its canola yield assumption to account for damage from frost and rain.

“Hard to clarify quality damage but there is no doubt that it is significant,” a source at that company said.

Canola crushers can use low-quality canola but incur the added expense of bleaching out the green colour from unripe seeds before mixing it with better grades to produce oil.

Frost causes yield losses by making seed pods brittle, and causing them to drop and shatter. It also freezes immature, watery seeds, causing them to shrivel.

Farmers in southern Saskatchewan and southern Alberta, which the killing frost missed, may still wait to allow crops to develop before harvesting, Jurke said.

Statistics Canada, the national data agency, will give a new forecast for the size of 2010 crops on Oct. 4.

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