A sea of green washed through this year’s canola crop

Green seed usually isn’t a big problem, but a quarter of this year’s harvest may be downgraded

It pays to know how canola is graded. For example, “light green or greenish-yellow seeds — sometimes called ‘limes’ — are not distinctly green and are not included in the green total,” says the Canadian Canola Growers Association website.
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Feeling a little green after getting the grade for a load of canola you’ve just delivered?

You’re not alone — many producers are taking a hit after a year that produced unusually high amounts of green seed.

“We’re grading about 80 per cent of canola at No. 1, but some samples are grading into No. 3 or into sample grades on account of high distinctly green counts,” said Daryl Beswitherick, Canadian Grain Commission quality assurance program manager.

“As we get samples from Alberta, more and more of those samples are grading lower.”

A late start to spring delayed maturity, and snow in September made things worse.

As of early December, 79 per cent of canola samples received by the Canadian Grain Commission graded No. 1 — but eight per cent were No. 2; 10 per cent were No. 3, and the remainder received a grade of ‘sample’ (the lowest category).

But Beswitherick expected the situation would get worse still.

“As we continue to get samples, that 79 per cent is probably more like 75 per cent and there are more grading at No. 3 and sample,” he said. “We typically don’t see these kinds of numbers. Some years, 98 per cent grades at No. 1.”

In other years where green seed in canola has been a problem, farmers might expect to see between two and six per cent green seed in a sample. But this year is off the charts — the grain commission is seeing samples ranging between 18 and 30 per cent, and even a few as high as 75 per cent.

The allowable limit for green seed for No. 3 is 20 per cent. Any level above that is sample grade, which is typically worth about half of No. 1 canola.

“It’s harder to sell canola with higher levels of distinctly green seed, so you have to find a buyer who will buy it or take a discount at the elevator,” said Janelle Whitley, policy manager with the Canadian Canola Growers Association.

“So farmers who are experiencing higher levels of green in their seed should shop it around and make sure they maximize the price they get for their canola.”

But buyers aren’t exactly lining up for sample or off-grade canola.

“There’s definitely going to be some discounts for lower grades,” said Beswitherick. “What can the industry do to market 20 to 50 per cent distinctly green canola? I don’t know what it’s going to do with it.”

Forewarned is forearmed

All this makes it particularly important to have a representative sample and know exactly what you have before marketing it.

“Get a representative sample and have a third party — like the grain commission or another private third-party company — to grade it so you know what you have,” said Beswitherick. “Then when you go to market your grain, you’ll know if you’re getting a good deal or not.”

Whitley agrees.

“The grade they have impacts the price that they receive for their canola at the end of the day, so it’s important to understand what’s happening at the elevator and to be armed with the relevant information,” she said.

The canola growers association has created a new website to help producers with that, she added.

“KnowYourGrade.ca is really a one-stop, easy-to-use source of information on canola dockage, what to expect at the elevator, and the relevant grading factors that canola is assessed against,” she said.

“We really wanted to bring all the information together so that it will be a strong resource for farmers who have questions about dockage or grading.”

The site has fact sheets, videos, and infographics covering the sampling, grading, and dockage process.

“The goal of the website is to break down the dockage and grading process so that when farmers go to the elevator, they have a better understanding of what to look for,” said Whitley.

“Hopefully that will help them leave the elevator with more confidence in the outcome of their assessment.”

But getting a grade is the critical step.

The grain commission has extended its Harvest Sample Program until the end of the year, so there’s still time for producers to send in a canola sample.

“They can get their grade results, their oil content, and their chlorophyll content,” said Beswitherick. “It’s all information they should have for selling and marketing their canola.”

To sign up for the Harvest Sample Program, visit grainscanada.gc.ca.

About the author


Jennifer Blair

Jennifer Blair is a Red Deer-based reporter with a post-secondary education in professional writing and nearly 10 years of experience in corporate communications, policy development, and journalism. She's spent half of her career telling stories about an industry she loves for an audience she admires--the farmers who work every day to build a better agriculture industry in Alberta.



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