Frost damaging canola crop

By Mac Christie

Some area canola crops could be in dire straits after the frost on the morning of Sept. 14.

Temperatures of -5 C were recorded across the province, in many cases for up to eight hours.

In fact, Grant McLean, a cropping management specialist with the Ministry of Agriculture, said it may have been even colder in the Northwest.

“We experienced at least minus five, and in some cases as low as minus-six and eight,” McLean noted. “Any immature crops would be significantly hurt by that.”

He added those crops would mostly be those seeded later, or had hail damage.

That would have delayed their maturity, and left them in a more vulnerable state.

Ryan Wilfing agreed, noting in many cases area farmers were delayed by a spring frost.

“Normally we would have had a lot of it swathed three weeks ago, it would have dried down and handled the frost no problem,” he said. “But the late frost we had in June stunted everything so badly.”

Wilfing said the problem with the frost is it will cause the cell walls in the canola to break, allowing any water within to escape. Water is necessary for the enzymes that break down the chlorophyll to work, ripening the canola.

He said it’s still too early to say what the impact will be on the crop.

“It’ll probably be a wait and see kind of thing,” he added. “We won’t really know for a couple of weeks.”

Even though the frost was inopportune, it was later than usual in the Meadow Lake area.

McLean noted historically frost could hit as early as Aug. 24 to Sept.1.

“We’d probably already been living on borrowed time,” Wilfing agreed. “You can always hope we weren’t going to get it until the 25th or something, but that would be asking for a lot of favours.”

While McLean said the frost could also have an impact on cereals like wheat and barley if they were immature, Wilfing noted most were mature enough they weren’t affected.

One possible positive is crop reports indicate there was only five per cent of the crop still standing in the Northwest, noted McLean.

“The damage would be significant on those crops, but if they’d been swathed and dried down it wouldn’t be as significant,” he added.

Reportedly 62 per cent of the crop was swathed, with another 5 per cent ready to straight combine.


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