1. Scout for disease prior to swathing. Assess levels to determine if premature ripening or pod damage from alternaria black spot may necessitate swathing earlier than normal — before seed shatter starts. Fields with lots of diseased plants may also be poorer candidates for straight cutting due to the increased shattering risk.
2. Hail damage can cause crops to mature unevenly. When swathing a hailed crop, assess the seed-colour change at the earliest and highest-producing parts of the field, especially if the delayed maturity creates a high risk for fall frost damage.
3. Check weed pressure. Green biomass in the swath will extend the curing time, and weed seeds and green plant material can be starting points for heating in storage. Fields with high weed counts may benefit from a pre-harvest spray to dry them down.
4. When to swath. The best timing for yield and quality is when 50% to 60% of seeds on the main stem are turning from green to brown. For more on this, click here to read the CCC’s “Canola Time of Swathing Guide.”
5. Lay swaths parallel to the direction of prevailing winds. This reduces the risk of swaths blowing and pods shattering.
6. Set the roller low enough to anchor swath into standing stubble with slight pressure. Use a roller that tucks swath edges down into stubble.
7. Large dense swaths tend to take longer to condition and cure canola before combining. Thin swaths lying flat on the ground may also take longer.