Quality of western Canadian canola 2016 - Free fatty acids content

Free fatty acids content

The average free fatty acids content (FFA) of the oil for the 2016 canola was 0.20%, similar to what was observed in 2015 (0.18%) (Tables 1 and 4, Figure 12).  This level is higher than the 5-year average of 0.15% (Table 1).  Average free fatty acids levels in Canola, No. 1 Canada samples from Manitoba (0.34%) were higher than what was found in Saskatchewan (0.16%) and Alberta-British Columbia (0.21%)(Table 4).  Manitoba fatty acids content  average contents were higher in 2016 (0.34%)  than the Manitoba 5 year average (0.24%).  In 2016, in Manitoba only two crop districts had fatty acids content averages lower than 0.24 %, crop district 4 and crop district 5, 0.17 and 0.22%, respectively. Alberta-British Columbia crop district 7 had the highest fatty acids content average in Alberta-British Columbia (0.36%), followed by crop district 6 (0.26%) and crop district 5 (0.25%).

For samples graded Canola, No. 2 Canada, fatty acids content levels were much higher than for samples grades Canola No. 1, Canada, 0.58% versus 0.20%.  There was an important difference between the three provinces.  Samples from Saskatchewan graded Canola, No. 2 Canada had low fatty acids content, 0.17%, very similar to the Saskatchewan Canola, No. 1 Canada 0.16%.  On the other hand, fatty acids content for Alberta-British Columbia Canola, No. 2 Canada samples averaged 0.73% and Manitoba Canola, No. 2 Canada averaged 1.22% (Table 4).

Figure 12 Canola, No. 1 Canada - harvest samples, 2000 to 2016 - Free fatty acid content (in % as oleic acid)

Free fatty acid content (in %  as oleic  acid).Description below

  • Details
    Free fatty acid content (in % as oleic acid), 2000 to 2016
    Year Free fatty acid content (in % as oleic acid)
    2016 Data
    2015 0.18
    2014 0.18
    2013 0.13
    2012 0.14
    2011 0.12
    2010 0.16
    2009 0.15
    2008 0.10
    2007 0.18
    2006 0.17
    2005 0.11
    2004 0.19
    2003 0.23
    2002 0.35
    2001 0.35
    2000 0.24
Table 4 Free fatty acids, % - 2016 Harvest sample program, Canola quality data by grade and province
Number of samples Free fatty acids, %
Canola, No. 1 Canada
Manitoba 417 0.34
Saskatchewan 806 0.16
Alberta-British ColumbiaFootnote1 604 0.21
Western CanadaFootnote2 1827 0.20
Canola, No. 2 Canada
Manitoba 12 1.22
Saskatchewan 15 0.17
Alberta-British ColumbiaFootnote1 24 0.73
Western CanadaFootnote2 51 0.58
Canola, No. 3 Canada
Western CanadaFootnote2 11 0.32
Canola, Sample Canada
Western CanadaFootnote2 26 0.32

We have observed that free fatty acids in canola can be high due to field heat stress (high temperatures during the growing season) or to high seed moisture and sprouting because of precipitations at harvest.  Heavy rains delayed harvest in all three provinces, (Figures 2b and 3b).  Excess of moisture at harvest tend to promote sprouting in the seeds leading to an increase of the free fatty acid levels in the canola oil.  High canola moisture at harvest is also a problem for seed storage as it could lead to bin heating/burning if seeds are improperly stored.

In December (2016), free fatty acids level of commercially clean Canola, No. 1 Canada exports averaged 0.29% (0.32% for the 2016 August to November exports).  The free fatty acids level of individual commercially clean Canola, No. 1 Canada exports ranged from 0.12 to 0.83%.  These averages were similar to not commercially clean exports, 0.27%  for the 2016 August to December exports (Table 6). 

Free fatty acid content might be a problem with canola exports this year, it is expected that the fatty acids content will remain higher this year that they were during last year shipping season (0.36%).  As it was observed in the August to December exports, it is likely that large variations will be observed with shipments showing high free fatty acids content levels.  Over the year it has also been noticed that fatty acids content levels increase during the shipping season as hydrolytic enzymes are still active in the seeds.

Date modified: