Canola School: Considerations for straight cutting as acres surge

“15 to 20 years ago it made me nervous to drive past a canola field waiting to be straight cut. But now…our genetics have improved, our ability to handle that crop, and the size of our combines and ability to handle that crop and harvest it in a timely fashion has gotten much better.”

This sentiment expressed by Keith Gabert, agronomy specialist with the Canola Canola of Canada, is being echoed by many growers across the prairies, as the number of acres intended for straight cutting in the coming weeks has surged again.

While some growers have been straight cutting for years, 2017 will be the first year for others.

Gabert notes genetics have played a huge part in the move away from swathing canola.

“One of the things that has come into the market is some varieties that are well adapted for straight cutting, and even pod shatter traits. And all of those together mean that we’ve got fields of ripe canola that are willing to wait for us to come through with the combine,” says Gabert in this Canola School episode, discussing pros and cons of straight cutting versus swathing.

As high winds continue to blow across the prairies, pod shattering is a concern, but Gabert notes its a problem in both systems.

“If we have a strong enough wind that we see a swath flip – so that’s likely around 50 miles an hour, which is a pretty strong wind — as soon as that swath flips you lose a huge percentage of your yield. So straight cut has a bit of an advantage. Believe it or not, standing in that stiff of wind is better because at least it’s not piled up against that neighbours fence. You get what’s left, and you can still handle the crop.”

In 2016 there was a huge increase in the numbers of acres that were straight cut harvested, and Gabert sees this year as no different.

“I’ve yet to meet a grower in the last 5 years that in terms of straight cutting will say ‘tried that, never doing it again.’ I have met a number of growers that have said ‘tried that, and sold the swather.’ I’m not going to recommend it that strongly, but I think we will see because it’s a nice fit and it’s a single pass operation replacing that swather – which sometimes tends to be a bit of an issue when we are out swathing a tangled crop and just making piles that don’t even want to go through the combine. There are some real advantages to straight cut, so we’ll see those acres go up.”

To learn more about the pros and cons of straight cutting versus swathing, check out this Canola School episode filmed at Making the Grade in Olds, Alberta: