Don’t park the swather just yet.
More western Canadian canola will be straight cut than ever before this season, but swathing remains the predominant form of harvest for the time being.
Bayer CropScience’s James Humphris believes the increased interest stems in no small part from the shatter-resistance traits that are being added to the latest canola hybrids. The traits create stronger pods, to protect the canola seed from shelling during the harvest process, he said.
“We know last year, with our one pod shatter hybrid, about 75 per cent of growers straight cut that hybrid, whereas typically across all the others, it was ranging from five to 10 per cent,” said Humphris, who is Bayers’ canola traits and seed marketing manager. “So the guys who were adopting the pod shatter hybrids were quickly adopting straight cutting.”
He predicts that by 2020 more than 40 per cent of canola acres will be straight cut.
“From a pure statistics standpoint, I can tell you it was an 11 per cent of acres last year that got straight cut, and it was about six per cent the year before, so it’s increasing,” he said, adding he predicts that number will jump to 15 per cent this year.
“Based on sales and interest I’m predicting that at least 15 per cent out there, maybe higher, but I don’t think it will be less, will be straight cut,” said Humphris.
Bayer CropScience launched InVigor L140P, which is a mid- to early-maturing hybrid, a few years ago and Humphris has seen interest in the shatter-resistance variety grow as farmers work to increase yields by reducing harvest losses.
“I’m a big believer that growers can increase their yields by decreasing harvest losses, and a lot of that is around combine management and settings, but I also believe… we gained a couple of bushels from straight cutting our pod shatter hybrid for the last three years,” he said.
Angela Brackenreed said she has also seen an increased interest in straight cutting since joining the Canola Council of Canada as an agronomist a few years ago.
“I have seen more and more interest in straight cutting, and I am certainly optimistic that there could be more,” she said. “Not that I think people should be looking to sell their swather, but I think if we can incorporate some straight cutting into a lot of our farms it is, or can be, a tool to manage that harvest timing.”
In Europe, even without shatter-resistance traits, about 90 per cent of canola is straight cut.
“I think it’s important to note that all canola can be straight cut, sometimes this gets missed, and obviously being from Bayer we’re biased on our hybrid,” Humphris said. “But ultimately all canola can be straight cut, and the guys who have been straight cutting for 20 years, 10 years, some of them don’t even see the need for pod shatter resistance because they have already been straight cutting and are strong believers in it.”
For producers who haven’t straight cut in the past and are nervous about pod shatter, he said a resistant variety can give them the peace of mind to give it a try.
“The reason that I say I hope to see more acres being straight cut here, as opposed to swathed, is because I think we are potentially leaving a lot of bushels on the table by swathing too early, and I think that largely that’s out of necessity. As farms get bigger, as more of a farm’s acres are into canola, it’s just really, really difficult to pass a swather across all those acres at the appropriate time,” Brackenreed said, but she added that swathing can also take away some of the critical nature of harvest.
“But (swathing) is also great for evening out a variable field and drying down any weeds,” she said. “So I don’t want to downplay the benefits of swathing, and it’s still what the vast majority of our acres see, and what the vast majority of producers do.”
She also reminded producers that the ideal target for swathing is 60 per cent colour change on the main stem.
Humphris said that while some producers are choosing to sell their swathers, many are using straight cutting as a tool to better hone their harvest timing.
“We’re not suggesting that farmers go wall to wall, although some farmers have, but it is a management tool where they might end up swathing half their farm,” he said. “There are a lot of guys out there we see who are swathing too early because they have a lot of canola acres to get over in a short amount of time.”