As we are coming into the harvest season here on the Western Canadian prairies, one of the questions that comes up frequently is whether or not to straight cut canola. Before we send our swathers to the auction block, there are a few things to take into consideration when it comes to straight cutting, and some of these decisions need to be made before pulling any harvest equipment into the field.
This decision is the first and probably the most important decision when it comes to straight cutting canola. Varieties that have Pod Shatter Reduction technology will hold up the best when straight cutting canola. This is the biggest factor when it comes to seed loss. The stand-ability of these varieties are usually much better.
Once a straight cut variety is seeded, managing disease becomes the next most important detail. Diseases such as sclerotinia, blackleg, and clubroot can cause uneven maturity across the field, increase the potential for high amounts of pod drop, and shattering of pods. Management of these diseases can be controlled through crop rotation, variety selection, and fungicides.
Accessing Your Field
An ideal field for straight cutting is one that has a uniform canopy and that is well knit together. Fields that are not tend to have a higher risk of shattering loss. Ideal fields will have an even topography with minimal low spots. This will give the crop the most even maturity across the field.
When looking at the field, it’s important for a field to have a low population of weeds. The green matter from late emerging weeds can cause poor harvestability and can cause some dockage. Using a dry down product or a systemic herbicide is a great way to manage this.
Timing Your Crop
When the pods are dry, and the seeds rattle in the pod when shaken, this is the ideal time to straight cut the canola. Seed colour is ideally black to a dark brown, with less than 2% green count. Overall, moisture should be in the 10% or less range to prevent issues in the bin.
When it comes to straight cutting or swathing canola, there are many different factors that should be taken into consideration. The seed variety, managing disease, the topography of the field, and the timing of the crop are all important details to consider. Both methods are great options when it comes time to take the crop off the field.