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Weigh your canola harvest options

Weigh your canola harvest options

Producers in some parts of the Prairies straight cut over 50 per cent of the crop

Staff Writer

The choice to straight cut or swath canola is a hot topic for producers across the Prairies. While each method offers pros and cons, growers need to find what works best for them.

Over the last six years since the release of pod shatter varieties, more producers are considering straight cutting their crops, Angela Brackenreed said. She is an agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada.

“Some acres were straight cut prior to that but, really, those pod shatter tolerant varieties facilitated this move towards straight cutting,” said Brackenreed. “There are regions across the Prairies that would be well above 50 per cent of the acres straight cut.”

Producers may choose this option as swathing can have a lot of factors to consider.

“You have variability in stage across the field. You maybe had some stand establishment issues or some disease issues. It's always tough to figure out the ideal time to begin (swathing). Straight cutting takes that out of the equation completely,” Brackenreed told

Straight cutting also potentially requires less labour and omits the need for a swather, she said.

The decision to switch to straight cutting isn’t clear cut, however. Growers may need to apply a pre-harvest aid, for example.

“So, now we're back to the challenge of timing just the same way that swathing can be a challenge to time. There is an additional cost to (applying pre-harvest aid) and there is the reality that we're having to tramp across the field if we're not using an aerial application for those pre-harvest passes,” said Brackenreed.

Straight cutting also involves a learning curve.

“We often need to think of this as almost a totally different crop then a really dried down swathed crop. As a result, we may find the settings to maximize yield and sample quality are very different from what we're used to with the swathed crop. Producers may find that that they're not quite as efficient with the straight cutting operation as they are picking up the swath,” said Brackenreed.

Swathing canola can help with drying the crop and gives a more exact harvest date. But swathing also means the crop is more susceptible to environmental damage such as wind damage, said Brackenreed.

“Even when it is a pod shatter tolerant variety in a swath, it becomes a real challenge to harvest a swath that’s blown across the field and to capture all the yield that's there,” she said.

So, a lot of producers both straight cut and swath canola, said Brackenreed.

“I think that is very smart when it comes to managing resources and logistics at harvest,” she said.

Using both options allows producers to swath some canola and allow it to dry down quicker and combine first, while leaving some canola to ripen to straight cut later. Some producers might also use a pre-harvest aid for fields in the in-between stage, said Brackenreed.

Farmers should keep learning when it comes to straight cutting canola as it is complex and always follow what strategy works best for them, she added.

“Either option may not be the answer for every farm. Every farm has its own challenges and requirements that may make either (method) the answer. It may mean that a combination of the two is the right solution or it may mean that it's different every year,” said Brackenreed.

Photo credit: Taryn Milton photo


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