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Canola Straight Cut or Swath

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This page was adapted from the article, "Canola Straight Cut or Swath," which appeared in Crop & Pest Report on July 28, 2022

Producers traditionally have swathed rather than straight combined canola. In recent years, the availability of new pod shatter resistant hybrids has made straight cutting the new trend for canola harvest. However, both swathing and straight combining have their places based on the conditions available for harvesting. Timely straight cut can save time and money due to the elimination of the cost of swathing of the crop. Heavier canola stands are better suited for straight combining than thinner stands because of the decreased likelihood of shattering from wind. In the absence of pod shatter tolerance, straight combining has resulted in yield losses of 8 to 54%, as reported by the Canola Production Center in Canada.

Many farmers tend to use desiccants to attain uniform maturity for straight cutting canola. Several preharvest herbicides are labeled for use as a desiccant in canola. Check your labels to verify that products can be used in your situation. Desiccants should be applied when more than 60 to 75% of the seeds have started to turn color (see the herbicide labeled instructions). Research has shown that when the desiccant application is timed properly, crop quality parameters, including yield, oil content, seed loss, green count and grade, generally were similar for desiccated canola compared with swathing.

Fields that are prone to early frost risk and excessive lodging, with uneven maturity and heavily infested with green weeds and diseases (clubroot, blackleg and white mold that reduce the pod integrity), pose severe challenges to straight combining canola. Therefore, swathing may be the better choice for these situations.