Dry weather, flea beetles eat away at North Dakota's 2021 canola production

Drought was the main reason U.S. canola yields were dramatically lower than last year.

Cavalier County, N.D., leads the United States in canola production. This photo was taken at the Langdon (N..D.) Research Extension Center in Cavalier County.
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North Dakota canola production plunged this year as a result of drought and insect damage.

The state’s farmers produced 1.9 billion pounds of canola in 2021, 35% less than last year, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service Oct. 12 crop production report.

North Dakota is the highest canola producing state in the United States. This year, for example, canola acreage in North Dakota acreage accounted for 80% of the total number of U.S. acres.

The reduced production was on record high acreage. North Dakota canola acreage was a record 1.7 million this year, 15% higher than 2020, NASS estimated.

The second highest U.S. canola acreage was in Montana, where farmers harvested a record 176,000, 27,000 more than in 2020, NASS said. Montana canola production this year totaled 158.4 million pounds, 34% less than 2020. Average canola yields in Montana were 900 pounds per acre in 2021, a 720 pounds per acre decline from last year, NASS estimated..


Yields in North Dakota averaged just 1,100 pounds per acre in 2021, an 860 pounds decrease from 2020, the agency reported.

Drought was the main reason U.S. canola yields were dramatically lower than last year. The drought also drastically reduced production in Canada. Agriculture Canada estimated in September that 2021 canola production was 12.8 million metric tons, the lowest in 13 years. Yields of 1.4 tons a hectare were the lowest since 2003 and 39% percent lower than last year and the five-year average, Agriculture Canada estimated.

Besides the drought, warm conditions this spring that resulted in an infestation of flea beetles were another reason for reduced yields in North Dakota.

Even though canola seed was treated to protect it from the flea beetles, the insects damaged the leaves of the crop when it was emerging, stunting the plant’s growth, said Barry Coleman, Northern Canola Growers Association executive director.

The damage that flea beetles cause to canola plants typically is worse when the crop is planted early and the seeds lay in the ground, said Randy Mehlhoff, Langdon (North Dakota) Research Extension Center director. Seed treatments typically have the highest rate of success when the seeds are dormant for no more than 10 days.

“The longer the seed is in the ground, the more apt the seed treatments are to be less successful,” Mehlhoff said.

The reduction in North American canola production and increased demand for soy oil has resulted in higher canola prices. The price of soy oil, which is in high demand for use in renewable fuel, typically is a few cents higher than canola oil, but the price relationship between the two now has reversed and canola oil is at a premium to soy oil.

“We’re seeing very high prices right now,” Coleman said.


Prices at canola crush plants were $33 per hundredweight for the crop on Tuesday, Oct. 12, which was double 2020 prices, he said.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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