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Should You Straight Cut Your Canola?

So, you’re growing a canola hybrid with pod shatter resistance. Does that mean you have to straight cut it? Not necessarily.

Growing a canola hybrid with some form of pod shatter resistance may be the first requirement of straight cutting canola but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The ideal canola crop to straight combine would have uniform maturity, be well-knit, and have minimal weed growth. Biotic and abiotic stressors over the growing season, like insects or weather, can affect pod integrity, so assessing your field and making sure the pods are holding their own and not shelling out prematurely is a must.

Once it starts getting later into the season, an early frost is a possibility, and there’s no set way for how to best handle one. If the frost event is hard enough, it can cause the pods to split and drop, affecting your yield and possibly your harvest method.

“Checking seed colour change every couple of days provides a great opportunity to also assess pod integrity,” said Justine Cornelsen, BrettYoung’s Agronomic & Regulatory Services Manager. “Then you can determine if diseases like blackleg are causing your pods to shell out. Hybrids with pod shatter reduction traits will act differently under varying environmental conditions, so assessments on how well they perform will help you when making future hybrid selection decisions easier.”

Deciding to Straight Cut #

The decision to straight cut can be difficult when green weed plant material is present. Cornelsen said weedy, uneven, thin, or even lodged crops can change a grower’s mind between swathing or straight combining the crop. A thin, short crop, if swathed, doesn’t make a nice windrow to pick up and could be subject to blowing if not anchored well. If left to stand, though, a thin crop may not feed well into the header when straight combined.

“It basically comes down to a personal preference on how best to harvest the crop to best minimize seed losses,” said Cornelsen.

Using a harvest-aid may be warranted to help speed up dry down of a swath, to even out the maturity of the crop, or to combat green weed growth.

Pre-Harvest Aids #

With dry, warm days during harvest, your crop and its weeds have time to dry down naturally. But if the forecast doesn’t look cooperative, if you end up trying to beat frost, or if you’re on a time crunch, a pre-harvest spray may be necessary to help prepare your canola for straight combining. The purpose of using a pre-harvest application is for weed control and crop desiccation. 

The Canola Council of Canada list three main options for pre-harvest aids in canola: 

  • Desiccation (Diquat): fast drydown
  • Pre-harvest glyphosate: perennial weed control 
  • Heat LQ (Saflufenacil): dry down and annual weed control

For most regions of the Prairies, there’s been drier-late season weather this year, making for little benefit when using a pre-harvest application. Cornelsen mentioned that for areas with canola crops with lots of plant biomass, a pre-harvest application could help with harvest timing.  

“These tall canola crops with thicker green stalks benefit from a pre-harvest spray to help dry down the stalk to allow for a smoother straight combining experience,” she said.

Cornelsen reminds growers none of the pre-harvest aids help to quicken plant physiological maturity.  

Pod DefendR® Trait  #

Our Pod DefendR trait is defined as a dependable level of shatter tolerance, well suited to straight-cut or delayed swathing harvest systems. BY 6217TF and BY 6211TF both contain the Pod DefendR technology, and we’ll have a new LibertyLink® hybrid coming for the 2024 growing season with Pod DefendR too.

With the introduction of the Canola Council of Canada’s canola shatter rating scale, all hybrids at BrettYoung are assessed for their shatter tolerance. To receive the Pod DefendR designation, hybrids must be rated as a 7 or higher on the scale. 

So, whether swathing or straight combining, timing is everything for canola.  

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