A late frost followed by drought have taken a toll on the Pacific Northwest canola crop, cutting into yields.

May frosts reduced winter canola yields more than anticipated, said Karen Sowers, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Canola Association.

“That’s something you can’t really see until when you get to harvest,” she said.

Some Palouse farmers are seeing a third to half of last year’s yield, Sowers said.

Spring canola farmers in Walla Walla County, Wash., normally would get a yield of 2,000 pounds per acre, but are expecting 800 pounds this year.

On the Palouse, growers can get up to 3,000 pounds per acre, but are expecting 1,000 to 1,200 pounds per acre this year.

Cold or hot weather can cause canola flowers not to produce a pod or produce a misshapen pod. Sowers has heard of instances of sprouted seeds in the pod.

“That’s a drought response, the hormones are all out of balance in the plant and they’re triggering something that’s making the seed sprout,” she said. “That’s considered damaged seed, and it can also be a challenge for storage.”

Sowers recommends growers scout their fields and speak with the facility they plan to sell their crop to. They should also contact a crop insurance agent, she added.

New canola growers need four years to establish their yield for insurance purposes, or else they must rely on county average yields, Sowers said.

“It’s important to get your own yield on your own farm, rather than the county average,” she said.

Prices are above 30 cents a pound. Sowers estimates the cost of production is about 18 cents per pound.

Planted acres are up 20%, Sowers estimated. Last year Washington farmers raised nearly 80,000 acres, Idaho farmers nearly 47,000 acres and Oregon farmers roughly 3,800 acres.

Washington canola is 63% spring-planted; Idaho is 74% spring-planted; and Oregon is 58% fall-planted.

She attributes the growth to high demand for oil, meal and renewable diesel, with three new facilities in Canada and several plants being retrofitted for production.

She also cited poor weather conditions in Canada and North Dakota, where most canola is grown.

“Harvested and production will definitely be a different story,” she said.

The drought will also affect planted winter canola acreage in the fall.

“You have to plant into moisture,” Sowers said. “It’s just not there in most situations. We need rain.”

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