Green seed threatens canola profits

Immature crops hit by frost likely to raise green seed levels, which could result in lower values for farmers

Some canola growers could be facing steep discounts at the grain elevator when they finally get a chance to deliver the oilseed.

Crops that were immature when frost hit in September will likely have high green seed levels, said Angela Brakenreed, agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada.

“Certainly, we’ve heard reports and expect that we are going to see elevated green count,” she said.

About 70 percent of Alberta’s canola and about 30 percent of Saskatchewan’s remained unharvested as of mid-October. But with the recent spell of good harvest weather those percentages will likely be vastly reduced by the end of the month.

Daryl Beswitherick, program manager for quality assurance with the Canadian Grain Commission, said green seed typically isn’t a big problem but that could change in 2018-19.

“It will be very interesting just to see what impact the snow and frost had on this crop, particularly in Alberta,” he said.

Early harvested canola is in great shape with 97 percent grading No. 1, according to the CGC’s harvest sample program. But the CGC has yet to receive any samples from crop that was exposed to September frost and snow.

“We are anticipating that (percentage) to go down quite a bit,” said Beswitherick.

Brakenreed doesn’t believe green seed will be an epidemic with the late-harvested canola but there will undoubtedly be isolated cases of elevated green seed counts.

“I have to speculate that it’s going to be fairly low when we average it out across the Prairies,” she said. “But I don’t want to take away from the significance to individual producers.”

Samples containing over two percent green seed will be downgraded to a No. 2, while anything between six and 20 percent is considered a No. 3.

“Now you’re dealing with some pretty significant economic losses,” she said.

Brakenreed stressed that green seed is a subjective grading factor based on visual assessment.

“I would encourage producers to make sure you take your sample around and get a couple of different opinions on that green seed,” she said.

She noted that green seed locked in by frost is biologically different from green seed that occurs by curing too fast.

“It’s very unlikely that it’s going to clear any appreciable amount at this point,” said Brakenreed.

One thing she is concerned about is that there appeared to be a problem with crop maturation this year, which would make those crops more vulnerable to frost damage.

“It wasn’t a year you would expect maturation to be slow. We were hot and dry in a lot of the Prairies,” she said.

Some people are speculating that smoke from this summer’s forest fires is to blame for the delayed development but Brakenreed said she would need to conduct some research before arriving at that conclusion.

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