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Straight-cutting canola growers urged to be patient on desiccant spray

Producers may be chomping to get the crop off the field, but experts say an early desiccant application in canola might mean loss of quality

Don’t jump the gun on canola desiccation.

The growing number of farmers who are straight cutting canola are once again pondering the right time to cut off their growing season, a decision that Canola Council of Canada agronomist Angela Brackenreed says is always difficult, even for experienced producers.

Lionel Kaskiw, farm production adviser with Manitoba Agriculture, is warning producers to keep canola standing as long as possible.

Kaskiw says he has noted significantly uneven development in fields this year, and urged producers to wait for the less developed areas to catch up before turning on the sprayer.

“Canola tends to be able to, I guess, hold on a little bit longer (than other crops),” he said during a Crop Talk webinar Aug. 1.

“Definitely don’t go on the early side with canola. We definitely want that crop to stand as long and mature those seeds out as long as we can,” he added.

Spray timing will be largely the same as when the farmer would normally swath, Kaskiw said.

Manitoba Agriculture advises producers to watch for stands where seeds in the bottom third of the plant have already blackened.

“In my opinion, with the newer varieties that are out there, a lot of those seeds should be black, and nice, big, black seeds before we go doing anything with those plants,” Kaskiw said.

Seeds in the middle third of the plant should have browned or even started to blacken, he added, while top seeds are still slightly green.

The “finger-roll” test could help gauge seeds in the top third of the plant. Seeds should not squish when rolled between two fingers, a point where moisture has dropped to about 30 per cent, Kaskiw said.

“Again, be on the later side,” he said. “A lot of the varieties are fairly good for shatter resistance, so going a little bit later is definitely a lot better than going too early.”

New varieties are also less prone to the “shrivelled” seed that is sometimes a symptom of an early swath, he noted.

Uneven maturity

Brackenreed says it is not unusual to see uneven staging in a canola crop, but advised producers to consider their options when dealing with significantly uneven maturity.

Swathing remains the best way to deal with an extremely uneven crop, she said. An application of glyphosate, which is not technically a desiccant, would be her second choice in a non-Roundup Ready crop.

“It’s systemic,” she said. “It works a lot slower. It’s not a contact herbicide. You won’t sacrifice quite as much or, potentially, not any quality or yield with that product.”

A producer using a true desiccant like Reglone, however, should be very cautious of an uneven crop.

“It basically just shuts that crop down at whatever stage it’s at and you can see a lot of green seed locked in and quality will decline as a result if that’s sprayed too early,” she said.

Heat, likewise, should be delayed as much as possible.

At the same time, she added, not every straight cut necessarily requires a chemical pass.

“It is certainly doable to straight cut without applying a pre-harvest aid,” she said. “It does take some adjustment of expectations, perhaps. You can see the seed moisture drop significantly while that plant material’s still green. There’s things we can do with the combine to manage that, but I do think that there is a perception that if you’re going to straight cut, you absolutely have to spray something and it certainly can facilitate that harvest operation, but it isn’t an absolute requirement.”

The agronomist further advised producers to base decisions on the majority of potential yield in the field, rather that getting caught up with poor areas, regardless of if they are straight cutting or swathing.

Manitoba’s canola crops currently range in development across the province. As of print time, areas in the north still had some time before fields were ready to be swathed or sprayed. Dry areas, however, had developed quickly and there were already some fields being swathed, Brackenreed said.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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