Harvest weather affects canola’s oil and meat quality

Weather has been the biggest issue in Canadian grain grading for several seasons, which is no surprise to farmers on the Prairies.

However, the rest of the world is watching, too.

“I never thought I would need to watch the weather, in this job, as much as I have the past couple of years,” Veronique Barthet of the Canadian Grain Commission said while attending the Ag-West Bio-led Canola Week in Saskatoon.

“Wind issues, snow issues, rain issues: harvest finally got better this year. These are reflected in the samples … and the Japanese (and others) want that data.”

The comment illuminates the market’s sensitivity to quality and a desire to understand the production issues that can affect it.

Harvest weather delays not only cut into yields due to shattering, but they can boost free fatty acids in the oilseed.

Depending on the year, the traits of the oil can change substantially.

“In Japan they don’t care about alpha linolenic for flavour. It’s health they are looking at,” she said.

Last season’s spring-harvested canola was in better condition than was expected by the industry, with a lot of it grading No. 1, and was exported whole. However, it might have had quality issues once crushed.

When canola germinates in the field or in storage it creates higher, undesirable free fatty acids. Storage conditions can also create problems.

She said there is still a lot to be learned about over-wintered canola and storage issues.

“We saw some big jumps (in fatty acids) recently with what would be dry canola (kept) in good storage conditions,” she said, which suggested more research is needed to better understand these issues for the marketplace.

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