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Make the Most of Your Canola Harvest

Posted: Aug 27, 2021

With Shawn Senko

Your canola harvest is shaping up to look a little different this year.

Drought and extreme heat across the Prairies have resulted in the majority of canola crops being at least one or two weeks ahead of schedule in terms of their maturity. Most crops also suffered the effects of drought stress, resulting in a shorter, thinner canopy than usual.

This combination of circumstances means many canola fields aren’t uniformly mature, which could make harvesting much more challenging than usual, according to Shawn Senko, an agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada (CCC). We recently sat down with him to discuss some of the challenges facing canola growers this harvest season.

Swath or Straight Cut?

One of the most common questions that Senko has received this season is whether you should swath or straight cut your canola. The simple answer, he says, is that it depends on a grower’s particular situation.

“One of the biggest concerns this year is harvest management with a thin, lighter crop,” he explains. “There’s not one precise answer. It’s really going to depend on your circumstances. People are going to have to look from field to field to decide what’s best. It’s a balancing act.”

While swathing will likely remain a common harvesting method for many canola producers this season, it’s going to be the riskier choice. Crops are expected to be thinner and lighter, meaning more susceptible to wind and rolling across fields.

These thinner canola crops are also more prone to pod shatter or pod drop if straight cut. You’ll need to be prepared to get into your field and start harvesting sooner than usual if you decide to do straight cutting this year, in order to minimize potential wind damage. You should also consider a pre-harvest application of a desiccant if your fields show variable maturity, says Senko. This will help to dry down the entire field in a consistent manner. “You’ve just got to be more on top of things this year,” Senko advises.

Ultimately, the harvesting method that you’ll choose will likely come down to time management, Senko says. In some cases, you may want to use a combination of swathing and straight cutting to get your crops off the field before they suffer any wind or rain damage.

The Right Time to Harvest

One thing you’ll want to be careful of this year is harvesting too soon. Although canopies may appear to be browning up, it could be a result of a condition referred to as sun scald, which occurs when plants ripen during periods of heat or other stresses. Senko recommends going into your field and checking a sampling of pods to make sure there’s a minimum of 60% seed colour change before beginning to swath or cut your crop.

Accounting for Harvest Losses

A common topic of conversation for canola producers by this time is harvest loss. It’s likely even more top of mind this year due to the extreme weather conditions. Senko’s advice is to make sure that you set your combine to measure any losses they incur. In addition, the CCC has a new harvest app available that allows you to plug in your numbers and calculate your losses.

Something else to keep in mind, is to make sure that you adjust the settings on your combine to reflect the fact that this year’s crop is likely to be smaller than usual.

“It’s going to be different combine settings than you would normally expect,” Senko explains. “If you use the same settings you use in normal conditions there’s a chance you might be throwing some over.”

For more information and advice about harvesting your canola, contact your BrettYoung Regional Account Manager.

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