Whats Up With Canada’s Canola?

Canadian canola growers are facing climate complications and dropping yields. Can the novel micronutrient fertilizer Soileos be a solution for the future? Only trials will tell!

Canola growers in the prairies have been a true ‘Made in Canada’ success story. Hot days, cool nights and plenty of water have elevated canola to become Canada’s most valuable agricultural export. Canola is an important source of income for some 43,000 Canadian farmers with a production of around 20 million tonnes annually according to Agriculture and Agrifood Canada (AAFC). In 2021, 22.5 million acres of canola were planted (according to Stats Canada) and a sea of yellow was anticipated to meet the high global demand for oil seeds.

But is the Canadian canola market in a bit of a predicament? The Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) thinks so.

Farmers’ concerns with the uncertainty of canola yields began with the occurrence of dry conditions early in the growing season. Canola production was predicted to recover and be on track for typical yields around 20 million tonnes; however, that number has since been swathed by environmental conditions and provinces reporting stressed and uneven crops with decreasing yield estimates. Last week, the USDA forecasted average  yields of 32.85 bu./ac for 2021; farmers have different ideas with estimates of 5-6 bu./ac.

Western Canada has had a hot and dry summer. A once in a 1000 year heat dome (made 150 times more likely due to climate change) lingered from late June to mid July and culminated in the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Canada at 49.6 °C (121.3 °F).

Early August saw big prairie skies finally darken with thunderstorms and rain bringing some relief, but it could be too little too late? Where rainfall did touch down, some fields were so burnt from the summer sun that precipitation did not have much of an effect. Because of this, canola across the prairies has been compelled to mature faster. 

As of August 10, 2021, 97% of canola in Alberta is reported to be in the podding stage with an average of 15% in good/excellent condition compared to the average of 69%. In Manitoba 35% of canola is rated as good/excellent.

“Canola crops are facing some of the poorest growing conditions in the past decade or more. Farmers are expecting average yields to drop to 10-year lows due to continued environmental and insect stresses”

Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development, August 17, 2021 crop report.

The USDA has also fated the yields of Canadian canola. Using aerial imaging analysis such as Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) scientists are able to observe changes in vegetation vigor. We can see from the USDA’s data that crop conditions have deteriorated substantially and are almost beyond description in some locations.  

Across the literature, estimates for Canada’s national canola yield for 2021 have dramatically decreased from previous years (thanks to the abysmal growing conditions brought by drought and heat during flowering) leaving growers across the prairies as stressed as their plants and in an alarming situation of having forward sold more crops than they will harvest. Some canola fields in the prairies have been abandoned or prematurely harvested for silage rather than for an oil seed crop due to low/no yield expectations.

Lucent BioSciences is conducting research trials on canola in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba this year on the product Soileos. Lucent Agronomist Laura Jefferies is studying the effects of Soileos on crop vigor, yield, and micronutrient uptake with the assistance of independent research organizations and in collaboration with IN10T . Last season, small plot research trial results in Alberta showed a yield increase of up to 2.5% with use of Soileos compared to an untreated control. This year, we are eager for the trial data to start rolling in so that we can analyze the results.  

Lucent BioSciences CEO Michael Riedijk and Kuroki, SK resident Graham McNamee standing in front of large scale Soileos demonstration trial on canola.

We expect that Soileos will impact canola production in a positive way. We got good yield results in 2020 and innovations to our tech and manufacturing process since then have created a far superior product for 2021. We would of course love to see Soileos improve drought tolerance and improve crop consistency but those details lie in the data and we do not have those answers just yet.   

Lucent aims to be a thought leader in the ag industry. We are doing trials with important crops such as canola and working with farmers so that we can make meaningful products. Lucent’s core technology is all about enhanced delivery. We have been studying microbial interactions with our product Soileos in collaboration with Aimé Messiga, Ph.D, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). Results from this study explained the delivery of nutrients. When soils are fertilized with Soileos, the naturally present microbes begin to consume the organic carbon from the cellulose in Soileos and there is an increase in microbial biomass carbon. In this process, microbes also consume the cellulose bound micronutrients such as zinc. Studies conducted at AAFC showed that the microbial biomass increased more than 20% when using Soileos compared to the control. But the responses of soil organisms to global change drivers like drought remain unknown.

So we are diving headfirst into unknown scientific territory. Soil science is a fascinating and quickly expanding field that is only starting to be uncovered.

Be a part of our discoveries! Don’t miss our 2021 Canola trial results by subscribing to our monthly newsletter where you will also stay up to date with our team of researchers as they continue to contribute to this space.

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