Should growers straight combine thin crop?

Growers with thin crops are wondering whether straight combining is better than swathing. Straight combining tends to work best on thick stands with plants meshed together to prevent whipping in the wind. But thin stands are at risk of wind damage whether swathed or straight combined. When thin stands are swathed, often there isn’t enough stubble to hold the windrow in place and prevent it from rolling in the wind.

If growers decide to swath thin crop, keep the following recommendations in mind:

•    Swath parallel to the typical prevailing winds in the area.
•    Cut plants as high as possible, just below the lowest pod. That will provide the highest stubble possible to keep the windrow in place.
•    Use a properly-adjusted swath roller to push down the swath so the edges are nestled into the stubble. Because the swath will be on or close to the ground, curing and/or dry down time may take longer.

We continue to get questions about pod sealants — products for the purpose of reducing pod shatter when straight combining canola. Limited research to date has produced variable results, often similar to straight cutting without the use of pod sealants. If growers do choose to try them, they are encouraged to leave a test strip and see if they make a difference to yield. Ensure timing of application is optimal and water volumes are adequate to maximize the odds of success. Don’t expect these products to completely “rescue” crops that are at high risk for shattering due to factors such as disease or hail damage.