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Canola producers should consider pre-harvest management

By Doug Rich

There are three ways to harvest canola: direct harvest with a combine, swathing the crop prior to harvest with a combine, or pushing the crop over prior to harvest with a combine. Jeff Scott, a canola grower from Pond Creek, Okla., says direct harvest is the least desirable of the three options.

SWATHER—Swathing canola prior to harvest with a combine is one option for producers. Swathers with a large throat that can handle a larger amount of plant material is a must.

If a producer does use direct cut harvest, Scott said to go easy with the reel because it can mechanically shatter the seed. Scott raises the reel all the way up and all the way back if he uses direct cut harvest of canola.

"I would encourage growers to find someone with a swather or pusher and do some type of pre-harvest management," Scott said.

Speaking at Canola U, sponsored by High Plains Journal and DeKalb Seed, on May 3, Scott said he tried direct harvest several times when he first started growing canola and seed loss was significant. A lot of canola was direct cut last year, but Scott said we were lucky to have high humidity and not much wind at harvest time. But if a producer has a small acreage of canola, he can probably make direct harvest work, Scott said.

"Cut canola when it is ready because you are just one windstorm away from not having any crop left to harvest," Scott said. "Timing is critical with this crop."

Jack Leitner, P & K Equipment, said canola is a new crop for them and they are just starting to learn about pushers and rollers. Pushers and rollers work well on tall, thick stands of canola. There is a longer seed fill time with these pre-harvest methods than with swathing. A general rule-of-thumb is to begin pushing and rolling the crop when it is between 40 percent and 60 percent color change.

"The pusher will delay the harvest a little more than swathing," Leitner said. "We have found that what worked one year may not work the next year."

Chuckie Hurt, a custom swather, is running a MacDon D6-D self-propelled swather this year. Hurt said he prefers the self-propelled swather to a pull-behind because he can adjust the floor speed and reel speed, which is an advantage in canola. Hurt also likes the larger windrow opening on the MacDon.

Scott said a large throat and a draper header are essential for swathing canola. A larger throat or windrow opening is needed to handle a lot of plant material.

"If you are going to swath canola you have to use a draper swather," Scott said.

Scott said canola is an easy crop to thresh because the little seedpods break open easily. Separation can be an issue, however. Producers need to slow down and cut the air on their combines.

"If you try to blow everything out the back of the machine you will lose seed," Scott said. "Some trash in the grain bin is all right."

Typically the canola in the grain hopper looks worse than it is because the chaff and seedpods float to the top. Scott said if you try to clean it like you do wheat and have a super clean hopper, you will be throwing bushels of grain out the back of the combine. A harvest speed of 3 mph is about average for good separation with canola.

Except for pushers or rollers, canola can be grown and harvested with the same equipment used to produce a wheat crop.

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by e-mail at richhpj@aol.com.

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