September 14, 2011 / 3:53 PM / 6 years ago

Prairie freeze damages immature canola, cereal

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Freezing overnight temperatures on the Canadian Prairies damaged immature crops of canola and cereal grains, an agricultural meteorologist said Wednesday.

Late-seeded canola was the most vulnerable to frost, which would stop development with some unripe seeds still green and lower the quality grade.

Temperatures in Saskatchewan dipped for at least several hours to about -2 C to -5 C (28.4 to 23 Fahrenheit) in general, with extreme lows of -8 C in some areas, said Drew Lerner, president of Kansas City based World Weather Inc.

"For immature crops that may be out there, it would definitely be damaging," Lerner said. "It was notably colder (than expected)."

Northwestern Saskatchewan had the largest amount of vulnerable canola in that province, according to government officials.

Temperatures got as cold in northwestern Saskatchewan as -5 C at North Battleford, said Grant McLean, cropping management specialist for the Saskatchewan government.

Immature spring wheat may see frost damage to the bran surface of the kernel, potentially affecting flour quality. Frozen oats can accumulate too much nitrates and poison cattle if not correctly managed, McLean said.

"There may be some grade discounts on some of the later crops."

Low temperatures included about -8 C (18 Fahrenheit) at Rosetown in west central Saskatchewan and at Coronation in east-central Alberta.

The frost hit substantial amounts of canola, wheat, barley and oats that were still standing in Alberta fields, said Harry Brook, a crop specialist for the provincial government.

"There's damage, in fact the whole northeast of the province was affected by frost."

The Alberta harvest lags the rest of the Prairies.

ICE Canada canola futures pared earlier losses on Wednesday morning, but likely took more support from a weak Canadian dollar than the frost, said Errol Anderson, president of the Pro Market Communications newsletter.

Only about 5 percent of Manitoba's canola crop was still standing in the field, according to the Canola Council of Canada, and temperatures did not reach as low as in other provinces.

Harvest progress in all three provinces is ahead of the usual pace.

Canada is the biggest exporter of canola, spring wheat and durum.

Reporting by Rod Nickel; Editing by John Picinich

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