Tips to prepare for harvest

Many crops are nearing the end of flowering or podding. Harvest decisions should be contemplated in the coming weeks. The following are tips to consider during the lead up to harvest.

1.    Scout for disease prior to swathing. Assess levels to determine if premature ripening or pod damage is due to diseases like blackleg, sclerotinia stem rot, clubroot, or alternaria and may necessitate swathing earlier than normal – before seed shatter starts. It is important to determine which of these diseases is present in your field for future rotation planning. If blackleg or clubroot is found, then rotations should be lengthened to prevent the disease from building up and threatening neighboring fields and the effectiveness of our genetic resistance. If the disease is sclerotinia, then an assessment of the % of infected plants will help determine the yield loss and an estimation of whether fungicide applications would have been warranted. Click here for the disease assessment card.  Fields with lots of diseased plants will 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. Click here for a time of swathing video.

5.    Lay swaths parallel to the direction of prevailing winds to reduce the odds of cross winds flipping swaths. 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.

8. Straight combining tends to work best on thick stands with plants meshed together to prevent whipping in the wind.

9. Tune up the combine with lots of tips from the recent combine clinic in Alberta.