Prairie canola likely avoids frost damage

Mother Nature got hearts racing last week when temperatures dipped below freezing across the Prairies.

Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan experienced frost the morning of Sept. 4. The following morning the mercury dropped below zero in a number of locations from the Peace region right through to western Manitoba.

About half the crop was still standing at that time, but fortunately the frost didn’t cause widespread harm, said Clint Jurke, agronomy director with the Canola Council of Canada.

“It seems like it’s fairly superficial,” he said.

“It doesn’t sound like there’s all that much actual damage.”

He classified it as a mild frost rather than a hard frost, although temperatures did dip as low as -4 C in some parts of Saskatchewan, such as Prince Albert and Indian Head.

With a mild frost the only real risk is locking in green seed, but that doesn’t appear to be a problem either.

“For the most part I would say that the majority of the crop has escaped any of that kind of damage,” said Jurke.

Alberta farmers were fortunate that the first frost was preceded by rain.

“It looks like that water on the pod buffered the majority of any damage we would typically see,” he said.

The crop had dried out by the time of the second frost, but again there was not much yield loss because the temperatures did not get low enough for long enough.

“For the most part we’re in pretty good shape,” said Jurke.

The one exception is late-seeded canola that were still green when the frost hit. Crops that were hailed out and re-flowered late or ones that were re-seeded due to establishment issues were more vulnerable.

There should be good weather for the remainder of harvest right across the Prairies, according to AccuWeather.

“We’re looking at above normal temperatures for the entire region for the fall,” said senior meteorologist Brett Anderson.

Unfortunately, the warmth will be accompanied by dry conditions in the regions that desperately need to replenish soil moisture.

AccuWeather is forecasting above normal rainfall in the northern Prairies, near normal through central areas and below normal in extreme southern Alberta and the southern third of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

“There’s no relief for those guys in the south,” said Anderson.

An El Nino weather system is starting to evolve but it will have no impact on conditions for the September through November period.

However, if it turns into a moderate El Nino by winter, then farmers can expect a mild winter in Western Canada and below normal snowfall, which would be more bad news for the drought regions.

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