In a situation where a field has matured more rapidly than expected and the majority of plants are beyond 80% seed color change, growers may be better off leaving the crop for straight combining. Swathing may result in costly losses.
Before giving up on swathing, check the pods and stems. If they are still pliable, shelling losses will be minimal and growers could still swath the crop, especially if they can swath at night or early in the morning when moisture levels are higher. But if pods are rattling and dropping off, then straight combining could be the lower risk option. If straight combining for the first time, consider these few tips:
—Have the cutterbar in front of the reel. Set the reel as far back as possible, as long as it still allows for smooth feeding of the combine. That way, when the reel hits the canola, any pods that break open will drop their seeds on to the platform, not onto the ground. The longer the distance between the cutterbar and header auger, the better to reduce losses.
—Set the reel speed equal to ground speed of the combine. This reduces contact with the pods.
—Avoid combining during hot dry days if the pods are brittle. Cooler days or mornings and evenings with a bit of dew are preferable to reduce pod shatter on impact, but this can present a challenge to combine efficiency if the stems are somewhat green. Depending on seed moisture levels, this may also mean additional conditioning for safe storage.
—Work around low spots with later green seeds and higher weed biomass. These will slow you down and green plant material in the sample could increase the spoilage risk. Swath these areas and combine them later.