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Published August 05, 2013, 09:24 AM

Canola crop looks good

Mid-summer heat hurt the region’s canola a year ago. But this year’s crop seems to have weathered July just fine.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

Mid-summer heat hurt the region’s canola a year ago. But this year’s crop seems to have weathered July just fine.

“We’re very pleased with the condition of the crop,” says Barry Coleman, executive director of the Northern Plains Canola Growers Association in Bismarck, N.D.

North Dakota is the nation’s dominant canola producer. Farmers in the state planted an estimated 860,000 acres of the crop this spring, or about two-thirds of total U.S. canola acreage.

Much of North Dakota was hit by warm weather in late June and late July this year, leading to anecdotal reports that some canola fields had been hurt. Too much heat during blooming can cause flowers to abort and reduce pod formation, as was the case in July 2012.

But this year’s crop was planted later than the 2012 crop, delaying blooming and minimizing damage from late June and early July heat. Cool weather in the second half of July further boosted 2013 crop prospects, Coleman says.

The daily high temperature in Langdon, N.D., a key area for canola, exceeded 80 degrees on each of the first five days in July, according to the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network.

But Langdon’s daily high never once reached 80 in the second half of the month, according to NDAWN.

This year’s canola crop also is helped because the number of aster leafhoppers, an insect that can spread disease in canola, has declined from a year ago, Coleman says.

Eighty percent of North Dakota’s canola crop was in good or excellent condition in late July, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Sixteen percent of the state’s canola was rated fair, with 4 percent considered poor or very poor.

Canola is a cool-season crop developed by Canadian scientists. Canada remains the world’s leading producer and exporter of the crop.

Canada’s canola crop also looks good this year and record production “is definitely possible,” says James Loewen, an Altona, Manitoba-based grain manager for Bunge.

“We’ve missed the blistering heat we had last year and we’ve gotten rain,” he says.

The number of aster leafhoppers also has dropped sharply in Canada, where it caused significant disease problems in canola last year, a Canadian official says.

Extreme drought in the U.S. Corn Belt pushed aster leafhoppers north last year, which hasn’t been the case this summer.

The prospects for strong worldwide production has hurt the prices paid to U.S. canola producers, Coleman says.

Old-crop canola fetches an average of about $22 per hundredweight at area grain elevators surveyed weekly by Agweek.

The average price at those elevators a year ago was $26 per hundredweight.