Key canola stage to drag out, add uncertainty

Thu Jun 30, 2011 11:46am EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - A few, rare fields of Canada's canola crop are blooming into the critical flowering stage when yields are made or lost, but widely ranging plant growth makes forecasting the harvest tough this year.

In a normal year, canola flowers for a few weeks in late June and early July. Excessive heat causes its yellow petals to fall off before they can turn into seed pods.

This year, flooding caused staggered planting times across the Prairies and wet, cool conditions have also delayed growth.

"It could be the whole of July (that canola will flower) depending on when they seeded," said Venkata Vakulabharanam, oilseeds specialist for Saskatchewan, the top canola-growing province. "This weekend, we usually see yellow fields, but it's going to be rare this year."

The most flooded areas are southwestern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan, both of which normally grow significant acres of canola. But crops are much healthier this year in northeastern Saskatchewan, a more critical area.

"This is not a normal year and that's why Stats Canada has a difficult time to predict what the numbers are," Vakulabharanam said. "It's really tough."

Statistics Canada will give its first estimates for production on August 24.

Canada is the biggest exporter of canola, also called rapeseed, which is used as a vegetable oil and meal for livestock feed. It is Canada's second-biggest crop after spring wheat.   Continued...

<p>Cowboys trail bronc horses past a canola field near the village of Hussar, Canada, June 30, 2005. REUTERS/Patrick Price</p>