Spring-harvested canola: Quality, marketing and storage risks

Quality. The Canadian Grain Commission (CGC) evaluated 106 samples of canola harvested in the spring of 2020. Farmers submitted the samples through the CGC’s Harvest Sample Program and most of these samples came from northern Alberta. These spring-harvested (overwintered) canola samples contained higher oil content and higher free fatty acid (FFA) levels than autumn-harvested samples. However, the CGC says overwintered canola could still provide suitable quality seeds as there were samples of the top grade with acceptable FFA levels.

Of the overwintered canola samples, 27.4% graded No.1, 34.0% graded No.2, 20.8% graded No.3 and 17.9% were Sample. See the full report.

The CGC ran a similar spring program for overwintered canola in 2017. Of the 161 canola samples submitted that spring, 34 per cent were No.1, 26 per cent were No.2, 20 per cent No.3 and 20 per cent sample.

Canadian Oilseed Processors Association (COPA), which represents the canola processors in Western Canada, knows that spring-harvested canola, in general, can be lower in weight, lower in oil content, higher in free fatty acid levels and at increased risk of animal damage. As a result, oilseed processors will assess the physical and intrinsic quality attributes of each spring-harvested canola sample, and make a decision as to whether to accept delivery. This 2015 Canola Digest article has a few paragraphs on FFAs and canola oil processing.

Marketing. Here are companies that will buy off-grade canola from time to time.

Storage risks. A lot of spring-harvested canola came off dry in 2020, but the recommendation is to aerate and monitor it just in case. That’s because moulds and sapropythic fungi on the grain could increase the chance of spoilage and heating in warmer summer conditions. If canola has a high green count or high dockage, this can also increase instability and storage risk. CGC also found that FFA levels for the 2020 spring-harvested samples increased after two months in storage.

University of Manitoba canola storage researcher Digvir Jayas says there are currently no studies that relate immature and green seeds or amounts of dockage/foreign material (DFM) to safe storage times. However, based on professional experience, Jayas says a 5% reduction in safe storage time for each percent increase in immature and green seeds can used to assume the adjusted safe storage time. Similarly, a 5% reduction in safe storage time can be assumed for DFM of 5% to 10% and a 10% reduction for DFM of 10% to 20%.