Serious quality problems found in some crops

If your crop came off dry with reasonable quality, count yourself lucky. In some regions and for some producers, quality is going to be a big issue.

In Western Canada, fusarium appears to be virtually non-existent this year. After the terrible fusarium issues of 2016 with elevated levels of the vomitoxin DON, particularly in durum, it’s amazing what a couple of drier growing seasons can do to eliminate the concern.

However, vomitoxin is a horrendous issue in the Ontario corn crop this year. Producers in some counties are recording excellent yields accompanied by vomitoxin levels that are dramatically cutting the value of the crop. In some cases, the levels are so high the crop does not appear to have a market. Buyers are outright rejecting loads.

There’s some thought that high vomitoxin corn could be used to make ethanol with the dried distillers grain discarded. However, that’s only a theory unless an ethanol plant can make the economics work.

Although not a health issue, a similar situation exists for a portion of the canola crop in Western Canada because of high levels of green seed. This seems to be a relatively minor percentage of the overall crop, but it’s a big deal for the producers affected.

In this case, frost is the culprit. Late-seeded canola crops and crops set back by hailstorms seem to be the main victims. In Alberta, the many days of heavy smoke retarded crop development and contributed to maturity issues.

When the weather turned bad in September and temperatures dipped, frost locked in the green chlorophyll of immature canola seed. A certain amount of blending capacity is available to solve low percentages of green seed, and grain companies will buy lower grades at a discount.

However, canola with extremely high levels of green seed, say 20 or 30 percent, does not seem to have a market at this time, and those samples certainly exist on some farms.

In both the eastern corn situation and the western canola situation, the problem is often compounded by high moisture levels in the crop.

Ontario corn is typically combined at high moisture and dried, but it’s a significant cost. How much do you invest in a crop that may not have a market? And with so much variability in vomitoxin levels from one truckload to the next, how do you quickly determine value?

At least with the kernel roll-out test, canola producers can check quality themselves, but counting distinctly green kernels becomes rather subjective. Of course, drying canola consumes time and money and many producers don’t have sufficient drying capacity, particularly as the weather turns colder.

Producers who regularly seed late in the spring, particularly those who seed late because they have more acres than seeding capacity, may not get a lot of sympathy from neighbours. However, there are other cases where seeding was timely and the problem still exists.

In the past, even when a crop appeared to be non-marketable because of a quality issue, a market has eventually developed, albeit with a severely discounted price. Typically, it isn’t a good idea to throw up your hands and discard large amounts of crop. Historically, patience has paid off.

You can seldom make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but sometimes the market provides a bit of opportunity.

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