Is there a yield advantage to straight cutting canola?
It all depends on timing, says Thorsten Stanze, who farms near Rosenort, Man.
Straight cutting boosted yields by four to five bushels per acre on Stanze’s farm southeast of Winnipeg.
His straight cut canola yielded 68 bu. per acre and his swathed canola generated 63 to 64 bu., on average.
However, in spite of this year’s results, Stanze isn’t convinced straight cutting outperforms swaths.
“The answer is, I don’t know,” said Stanze, who has straight cut part of his canola crop for five years.
“If you get the straight cut off with proper timing, you have a higher yield on the straight cut, but you run into the risk of losing crop. We have lost about 400 acres, four or five years ago.”
That year, wind shattering knocked his straight cut yield down to 15 bu. per acre. Meanwhile, Stanze’s swathed canola produced 45 bu.
Angela Brackenreed, a Canola Council of Canada agronomist in Manitoba, said there’s no clear-cut answer on the yield benefits of straight cutting.
“The jury is still out on the all-around benefits of straight cutting,” she said.
“But so far there really isn’t indication there is a huge yield increase to straight cutting, although there’s no indication there’s a yield detriment to straight cutting.”
Still, the evidence suggests straight cutting improves crop quality, she added.
“Bigger seed, higher oil, less dockage. That kind of thing.”
Based on her observations, more growers are trying straight cutting or considering it in Manitoba.
“(There’s) more straight cutting on the eastern side of province than the western side of the province,” Brackenreed said.
“I think the only reason (for) more prevalence in certain areas is a few producers start doing it, then their neighbours might (start) feeling comfortable with it.”
Brackenreed advises growers to straight cut a portion of their crop and swath the remainder to manage time and tasks during harvest.
Stanze concurred, noting he uses both approaches to mitigate risk.
For Stanze, straight cutting is all about timing. If the canola is ripe and set to go, he makes it a priority at harvest.
“If you have nice wheat (ready to harvest) and the canola is ready, you have to take the canola (first)…. Ninety-nine percent of the success is timing.”
At 68 bu. per acre, Stanze’s straight cut crop produced one of the highest yields in Manitoba. Nonetheless, many canola growers southeast of Winnipeg posted record yields this fall.
James Karlowsky, who farms three kilometres west of Brunkild, averaged 58 bu. per acre on his farm.
Cam Freeborn, sales representative at the Brunkild Crop Production Services branch, formerly a Viterra outlet, said most canola growers in the region reported yields of 55 to 65 bu. per acre.
This year, anything under 50 is a poor canola crop around Brunkild, he said.
“The worst I heard is 45 bu.”