Disease, heat take toll on canola quality

Disease and hot weather have curtailed canola yield expectations, but many analysts feel it is still going to be an average to above average crop.

Statistics Canada’s Crop Condition Assessment Program is forecasting an average western Canadian yield of 34.2 bushels per acre. That estimate is based on an analysis of satellite maps of vegetative growth on the Prairies.

It fits with a recent Reuters survey of 16 analysts, which came up with an average yield of 34.7 bu. per acre.

Both of those estimates are above the previous five-year Canadian average of 32.6 bu. per acre.

Statistics Canada was to report its take on yields on Aug. 22, after The Western Producer’s deadline.

Growers are thinking about what could have been. Many terrific crops have been downgraded to average by high infection rates of the rare aster yellows disease and of a more familiar foe.

“There certainly was higher disease pressure from sclerotinia over a wider area with the higher humidity and the heavy vegetative growth that we were experiencing well into 50 percent flowering or more,” said Grant McLean, cropping management specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture.

Heat stress was another yield-sapper this year, especially for crops that had to be seeded later than normal due to excessive moisture conditions. Those crops fared poorly in the dog days of July and August because of their underdeveloped root systems.

Grower expectations have been mitigated by the combination of disease pressure and heat stress.

“It’s still going to be a pretty lucrative crop when you consider the price. For some people who were expecting the double bonanza, I think it’s a bit disappointing. But it’s still going to be a good crop,” said McLean.

Some of his crop reporters are calling for below normal yields in their regions, but McLean thinks their recollection of normal might be skewed by a run of four exceptional years.

“In general, the word I’ve been hearing talking to producers is it’s an average crop,” he said.

Ellis Clayton, technical product manager for DuPont Pioneer, agreed.

“If I had a crystal ball, I’d likely say that we’re going to have an average canola year,” he said.

For Saskatchewan, the previous five-year average is 31 bu. per acre. McLean said the national average could easily reach the 34.7 bu. number contained in the Reuters survey because by most accounts Alberta is harvesting a well above average crop.

But not all analysts are sold on the above average theme. Larry Weber of Weber Commodities Ltd. conducted his own poll of 50 prairie farmers during the week of Aug. 13-17.

His survey resulted in an average yield estimate of 31.5 bu. per acre. That would produce a crop of 14.23 million tonnes, which is well below the 16.4 million tonne crop forecast in the Reuters survey.

If Weber is correct, the loss of two million tonnes of canola would put more stress on already taut global oilseed supplies.

Saskatchewan Agriculture will include yield estimates in this week’s crop report due Aug. 23.

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