How to set a swather for lodged crop

We have lots of lodged canola this year, including some crops so flat you can walk on them. The challenge is how to swath these crops to make combining as fast and easy as possible. Here’s how to set the swather for better results:

  • Extend reel arms so the reel is out front of the cutterbar. That way the reel picks up the crop before the cutterbar hits the stem, providing a cleaner cut and putting more of the crop in the windrow. This is particularly useful when swathing canola that’s leaning away from the cutterbar.
  • Angle the reel teeth so they cup slightly, which improves the lifting action.
  • Tilt the table forward. This steeper pitch helps improve the windrow shape as plants roll off the draper.
  • Make the swath opening as wide as possible to accommodate bushier canola swaths.
  • Adjust end dividers to work properly in canola. Traveling up the field at a different angle can help reduce bunching and plugging at the dividers, but the best solution is to invest in a power divider that mechanically cuts the crop.
  • Experiment with faster draper speeds. The key with lodged crop, which tends to be messier when it hits the draper, is to clear the table as fast as possible to limit bunch ups.
  • Swather Controls. Modern swathers have many of these controls on the joystick. (See the photo.) Talk to the dealership if you have questions about settings specific to your model.
  • Prepare for the occasional mound — “beaver house” — of bunched canola in the windrow. Straighten these out with a pitchfork the day you swath so the canola cures more evenly and you don’t have to go back another day to prep the field for combining.