Scout fields individually and often. Determine swath timing by breaking open pods and assessing the level of seed colour change. Scouting based on field colour change is not a good indication of seed maturity. Maturity can change quickly and it may help to open up the field with a swath cut around the perimeter to grasp where the field is at. Scout fields individually since varieties may respond differently and different plant populations will influence the amount of branching. Click here to watch a video about assessing crops for swathing time with Canola Council agronomist Jim Bessel, now retired.
When to swath. The best timing for yield and quality is to cut when 50% to 60% of seeds on the main stem are turning from green to brown. Click here to view a copy of the Canola Council of Canada’s Canola Swathing Guide.
If need to swath earlier. Fields that have extremely late stages may benefit from being cut earlier (e.g. 20 to 30% seed colour change on average) to prevent green seed issues from later maturing platns. Remember that these fields will take longer for the swath to dry down and seed to cure. However, if possible leave the crop ripen longer and swath at night to reduce shattering losses from the more mature plants. This would be preferred as long as the risk of frost damage or excessive shattering losses remains low.
Avoid swathing in mid-day heat. Swathing during the heat of the day may result in green seed issues because the enzyme that breaks down chlorophyll can be interrupted under high temperature conditions. Be prepared to swath in the evening, overnight, and early morning if high daytime temperatures occur. For more information, click here for a general podcast on time of swathing with Canola Council agronomist Dan Orchard. Click here for a pod cast on dealing with specific situations (such as strategies to: cover all canola acres on the farm and deal with multi-staged or hail damaged crops) at time of swathing with Canola Council agronomist Doug Moisey.
Lay swaths parallel to the direction of prevailing winds. This reduces the odds of crosswinds flipping swaths and shattering pods.
Open swathed piles (beaverhuts). After swathing, when the crop is pliable (early morning or late evening) piles should be opened and spread out to allow for adequate dry down and limit lumps being fed into the combine and causing plugging or poor threshing because of the large volume of material passing through at once.
Large dense swaths take longer to condition. Large swaths (wide swath width with heavy crop canopy) with a large volume of material take longer to cure than smaller, narrower swaths. Thin swaths lying close to the ground may also take longer.