Swathing canola will become a thing of the past. We are seeing technology changes that will allow us to take this crop to the bin without the extra operation. The research community is now putting together the pieces that will allow this to happen. Here are some of the tools that will be required to make straight cutting work in your fields. One thing that canola growers must recognize is that straight cutting canola works in your better fields. A thick, dense stand that is leaning a bit is the best candidate for straight cutting. These stands only happen when the plant population in the canola field is good and the growing conditions have allowed a robust plant to develop. The first change that needs to take place (it has already happened with some varieties) is that we need to use a variety with shattering resistance. There are differences between varieties when it comes to shattering. Plot work is now being done to assess this characteristic in canola varieties. If you are planning on straight cutting canola, look for this information. You will not find it in most variety trials, but if you ask your local agronomist, they may know where some of the data is. The agronomic process for straight cutting starts at seeding time. Before seeding starts, control any volunteer canola. If a producer expects a high yielding field, there has to be an adequate and even plant stand. A thicker plant stand will be more likely to grow together and lean. It will also likely produce a higher yield. Driving your seeder at the proper speed, adjusting the air on the seed tank to prevent seed cracking and making sure that the canola is not seeded too deep are all things that will help improve the stand for straight cutting. In the summer, reduce the chances of uneven maturity. Using the proper fungicide and insecticide to make sure that all the plants are maturing at the same time is critical. Healthy plants will mature evenly. At harvest time, look for products that will aid with the dry down of the crop. If weeds are present, use a weed control product pre-harvest to ensure that they do not present a problem with green plants at harvest time. With an uneven crop, pod sealants may be helpful to reduce shattering potential. Finally, it is important to make sure you know the adjustments that will be required for your machine to work properly. In the first year of straight cutting, a smaller number of acres would be appropriate to ensure that there is time to learn all these new adjustments for your equipment. As the learning curve goes further, we will see more acres of canola straight cut. Straight cutting of canola can work. We have producers in the area that are doing it and are making it work. There needs to be some planning and the right equipment available for it to work. It should give better yields and better quality for your canola crop if managed properly.
By Dave Cubbon, P Ag