Canola harvest techniques evolving

Straight cutting expected to become more popular for harvesting canola over the next five years

A dramatic change in how canola is harvested will occur over the next few years, according to Bayer, which predicts that more than 40 percent of Canada’s canola crop will be harvested by straight cutting by 2020.

Since launching its shatter resistant hybrid a few years ago, Bayer studied the number of growers who were straight cutting it.

“Last year it was over 70 percent of the growers that were using our L140p were straight cutting. This is a trait we are looking at putting into more of our hybrids. We have a new one coming out for next year, with high yield potential and in the future, we plan on launching more products with the (pod-shattering resistant) trait,” said James Humphris, marketing manager at Bayer.

Bayer predicts about 15 percent of the canola crop will be straight-cut this year, Humphris said.

To help promote its shatter-resistant trait and straight cutting of canola, Bayer launched a Twitter contest and asked growers to tweet pictures to Bayer of straight cutting canola with a #selltheswather hashtag.

Growers across the Prairies sent in images of straight cutting canola and of swathers sitting on the sidelines.

Scott Gabert of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., won first prize in the contest, a Tracker Super-Guide v-16 boat valued at $21,000.

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Humphris said the logistical benefits of straight cutting canola makes him optimistic about the practice.

“Farms are getting bigger and they struggle to get over and cut (canola) at that ideal time of 60 percent colour change. It’s pretty hard to cut it when most of your canola comes in within a few days time,” he said.

“Straight cutting can play a part on each farmer’s farm to ensure they help to manage that better”

Other crops are often ready to combine when canola needs to be swathed, so having some straight-cut acres can free up manpower that farmers can divert to getting in cereal crops at the crucial time.

Some growers plan to straight cut a portion of their acres and swath the rest as a way to reduce the impact of unfavourable harvest weather.

Standing canola can often be ready to be put through a combine sooner after precipitation than canola sitting in the swath.

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“If growers aren’t ready to straight cut, we recommend they delay, swath it (L140p canola) quite late and go and cut their other canola at the right time,” Humphris said.

“It’s not that I see that all farmers will go to straight cut, but that growers will adopt straight cut as one of their harvest management tools to give them more time at harvest time.”

Humphris said growers who straight cut their canola could also see a yield increase.

“In our straight cutting trials we’ve seen an increase of yields of 4.5 percent over three years,” he said.

“It’s the same variety, but you get 4.5 percent greater yield just by letting that crop fully mature.”

Any canola variety can be straight cut, however many growers are hesitant to try direct combining because of the risk of loss do to pod shattering

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“The pod shatter trait is one of the tools that can reduce that risk. It reduces the risk, it doesn’t get rid of the risk,” Humphris said.