Straight cutting Canadian canola still catching on

Growers who try straight cutting wonder why they didn’t do it earlier, as research suggested years ago

Farmers who straight cut canola agree on two things: buy only pod shatter resistant varieties and desiccate well in advance of harvest so you reap the benefit of a uniform crop.

Eric Dyck has been straight cutting his canola for five years. With the exception of a few fields dedicated to high oil content varieties, he buys all pod shatter canola. That’s a purchase that must be made early in winter to ensure you get the seed you want. Dyck says low dockage was one of the first benefits he noticed his first year straight cutting.

“We see there are fewer pods and fewer little pieces of organic matter in with the seed,” said Dyck, owner and operator of 4dfarms08 at Springstein, Man.

“Generally, guys talk about one percent dockage, but we’re usually down around point five or so, depending on the mood of the guy at the elevator.”

He said the major benefit of a cleaner sample is reduced risk in storage. Less green material reduces the risk of heating and spoiling. One of the reasons for less green material is the fact that he runs the combine headers quite high, just below the point where the plant starts branching out, leaving stubble 16 inches or higher.

He likes tall stubble because he follows canola with winter wheat on about half the harvested canola acres. Located where he is, just a few kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, there’s seldom a concern about drought or snow catch for moisture retention. He leaves canola stubble tall mainly to protect the winter wheat crop. The non-winter wheat canola stubble typically remains high over winter but get tilled under before the next crop.

“If you’re going to straight cut, it’s important you take care of potential disease problems well in advance because you want a nice even crop when you go to desiccate. Here in the Red River Valley, you don’t see guys anymore trying to skip their fungicide application for sclerotinia. We get so humid that it’s standard practice now. You have to do it.”

Most producers in his area use draper headers, and Dyck has one on his John Deere 9600. However, he has a MacDon pea header on his rotary combine.

“When you get into fluffy material like straight cut canola, and we also straight cut alfalfa for seed production, then the weight of the product isn’t great enough to hit the canvas and gain traction. That pea auger keeps everything feeding really smoothly. We would really struggle if we didn’t have the pea header,” he said.

“We like to set the reels back, closer to the cab, just to make sure we’re not breaking off any pods before they hit the header. We try to keep the reels turning the same speed as the combine’s travelling. We don’t want to beat the crop. We just want to draw it down once it hits the knife. The pods aren’t opening or shattering. They’re breaking off at the stems. For the most part, they go into the feeder house whole.

“There’s a question of whether the pods are hard to thresh. Is it hard to get the seeds to come out of the pods? That’s not the case. As soon as you put them through a rotor or a cylinder, or even through the feeder house, they thresh out just like your swathed canola.”

Dyck said he uses Heat LQ for his desiccant because it has a fast dry-down. When used in a pre-seed application, the broadleaf weeds dry down very quickly. He’s ready to straight cut 10 to 14 days after application, which is about the same time lapse between swathing and combining. He started using Heat LQ on soybeans and then seed alfalfa and canola.

“There’s one other risk reduction with straight cut. If we get heavy rains and wind, I’d rather have my desiccated canola crop standing upright than lying down in a swath. And that’s where pod shatter resistant varieties enter the plan.

“One year I had two fields within a mile of each other. We got a 60 km-h wind. I looked under the crop that wasn’t shatter resistant and the ground was black with canola seed. It made me sick to see all that seed going to waste.

“Everything that will be straight cut is pod shatter resistant. This year we started growing some non-pod shatter Clearfield again for their premiums on oil. From what I see, the seeds are bigger and more uniform and the oil content is higher. Those acres will be swathed.”

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