A run of unseasonably warm weather has the Manitoba canola crop down to the last few thousand acres left to harvest, after a wet fall had disaster looming.
“We’ve made a pile of headway in the last few days,” said Anastasia Kubinec, Manitoba Agriculture oilseed specialist, during a Nov. 18 interview.
Before the weather turned, provincial extension staff estimate about two per cent of the crop remained out, much of it in localized areas that had received too much rain and prevented farmers from getting into the fields. That’s now down to about half of one per cent, and dropping every day. The fluid nature of the situation makes it tough to peg just how much is out, but Kubinec says her best guesstimate is somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 acres, and falling.
“It’s probably even lower now,” Kubinec said, noting that even falling temperatures aren’t necessarily a bad thing, since most of what’s coming off is going to be wet no matter what, and cold mornings can harden the ground and let a combine do its job.
“I’ve talked to farmers who tell me they’ll be out there on these -8 C mornings,” she said.
While the situation is generally better, Kubinec noted there are still pockets of the province that have been particularly wet, such as around The Pas and north of Dauphin, around Fork River, where much of the unharvested acres are concentrated.
“Unfortunately the farmers in these areas just haven’t got the weather, even in the past few days, that’s allowed them to get into the field,” she said.
Farmers across much of the Prairies are reporting the same thing, according to Clint Jurke, an agronomist with the Canola Council of Canada, based out of Lloydminster.
“Overall we’ve made a lot of really good progress,” Jurke said, adding that nobody has any firm numbers just yet, but that it’s clear to most there’s been crop coming off.
“That’s particularly true of the more southern parts of the Prairies,” he said. “In Alberta there’s still crop out west of Highway 2, and around Edmonton. In Saskatchewan there’s crop out basically north of Highway 16.”
Jurke said growers have definitely benefited from the warm weather, getting what he described as September temperatures in November. That’s been good, but he added there’s no escaping the fact that it is November.
“You can really see the effect of the shorter days in terms of how long you can run, and how much the swathes dried up,” he said. “Some of these swathes never got dry, and as a result there’s a lot of wet canola that’s gone into bins.”
Kubenic confirmed that’s the case in Manitoba too, saying that the best option for growers is to rely on aeration to cool their canola. Jurke said the colder weather is going to help that too.
“Now that the daytime temperatures are below freezing in a lot of locations, they can use that cold air to cool down their canola below freezing, and stop that microbial action,” he said.
Kubinec added canola can be dried and there are farmers with a lot of history doing so, but that it’s not something that should be done without a fair bit of understanding of the risks.
“We really emphasize caution, and not too long, not too hot,” she said, adding the best resource for farmers contemplating this course of action is the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI).
Much of the late harvest appears to be going into the bin at high moisture however, and that means it’s going to be really important to keep a close eye on it.
“I’ve heard of canola going into the bin as high as 16 per cent,” Jurke said. “It would be a shame to get it this far, and then lose it right at the end.”
The best solution, of course, is for the bins to have moisture- and temperature-monitoring cables that run through the heart of the stored grain, giving regular readings to the farm manager. But of course that’s not always possible.
“We recognize that there’s a lot of storage out there that doesn’t have this, so regular monitoring is going to be key,” he said.
That means checking and probing bins regularly, using aeration if you have it, and being prepared to turn the bin if you don’t.
“If you do have to turn the bin, the colder it is out the better,” Jurke said. “It will bring the temperature of the canola right down.”
There’s also the option of doing what you can to move the crop out as quickly as possible too. Here there’s a fair bit of variability as to what you may be able to do from buyer to buyer.
“Some will take it as high as 15 per cent, some nothing over 12 per cent, and some even as low as 10 per cent,” Jurke said. “You may need to blend your wet stuff with your dry stuff to get it low enough.”
It’s also a fall when relationships with buyers may pay farmers dividends, with some opportunity for blending within facilities and even the ability to deliver two different sources at once to meet the moisture target.
“There are buyers who will let you paper blend — so you’d deliver a super B with wet stuff in the front and dry stuff in the back, and it would even out,” he said.
Bottom line for finding markets for wet canola will be working with your buyer, Jurke said, and doing what you can to find the various options open to you.
“I think it will definitely pay you to shop your canola around this year,” Jurke said.