Baby it’s cold outside, but your canola bins could be hot — dangerously hot.
That’s why the Canola Council of Canada (CCC) wants farmers to check their bins right away.
“Canola delivery points report a spike in heated canola over the past couple of weeks,” the CCC said in its Canola Watch email Nov. 28. “Crushers have capacity to accommodate a certain amount of mildly heated canola, but some locations are maxed out and have pushed back delivery of heated canola well into the new year, given the sudden increase in volume.”
One Manitoba canola buyer, who asked not to be named, confirmed he’s seeing heated canola coming to market.
“We had a very challenging fall that has led to some of this,” the CCC’s Manitoba agronomy specialist, Angela Brackenreed, said in an interview Nov. 28. “A lot took crop off at fairly high moisture levels and those with just natural air drying really had trouble to get that moisture content lowered. We just had cool conditions this fall.”
Some areas had more green canola seed due to early cutting or early frost. And some flooded fields resulted in more weed seeds in the crop. Both have higher moisture content, which can lead to canola spoiling.
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“It’s really unfortunate and I really feel for those producers who have had canola heat,” Brackenreed said. “It’s a sobering reminder for all of us that canola is fairly volatile in storage and we need to be diligent in monitoring those bins… as we head into the winter.”
The key to safe canola storage is ensuring the crop is dry (eight per cent moisture) and cool (15 C or lower).
Oil and water don’t mix and canola is more than 40 per cent oil. Canola seed can “sweat” for up to six weeks after it’s binned, warned Anastasia Kubinec, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development’s oilseed specialist.
“We didn’t really have a cold snap in October so some canola could have stayed warm,” she said.
Warm, moist grain can start to heat and then spoil. It can start small, but quickly spread.
Bin temperature sensors are the best way to monitor canola, Kubinec said. The cost of buying sensors is underwritten if farmers take an on-farm food safety course being offered through Growing Forward 2, she said.
If the bin smells bad, snow has melted from the bin roof or there’s crusted canola at the top of the bin, spoilage is occurring and the crop could be already badly damaged.
Even with temperature sensors the safest way to monitor canola is to pull at least a third of the crop out, Brackenreed said.
Start with the most vulnerable bins. That’s why it’s important to have good records, she said.
Don’t mix good canola with spoiled canola.
If spoilage is detected try to market that canola right away, Brackenreed said.
Aeration fans should be started as soon as canola covers the perforated bin floor and operated continuously in the fall until either the crop temperature is reduced to 0 C or the crop is dry, according to information from Alberta Agriculture.
Temperature differences in stored canola result in moisture moving from warmer to colder areas of the bin, the CCC says. During late fall, cold air sinks in the grain at the outside of the bin and warm, moister air, in the centre of the bin, rises and condensation may occur when it reaches the cold seeds near the surface. This free moisture near the surface can lead to rapid spoilage.