5 questions for timely harvest preparation

Will the crop need a pre-harvest aid? If planning to use a pre-harvest spray to prepare the crop for straight combining, consider the goal with the application – weed control or crop desiccation – before deciding what product to use. Then look at the product details for timing based on crop stage.

Glyphosate can be applied once grain moisture is less than 30 per cent in the least mature areas of the field. Applying too early can result in unacceptable product residues in the harvested grain, which can create market risk. By waiting until 50-60 per cent seed colour change, you can be confident grain moisture will be less than 30 per cent. At this stage seeds in the main stem will be green and firm to roll in the top third of the plant, mostly brown with some speckling in the middle third, and completely brown-black in the bottom third. Pre-harvest glyphosate staging guide for canola. The Guide to Managing Canola Harvest has tips on pre-harvest aids and how to assess seed colour change.

What to look for with a pre-harvest disease survey? Diseases are usually easiest to see and diagnose in the couple of weeks before swath timing. Patches of dying or prematurely-ripening plants are obvious areas to scout (and show up really well with drone images), but even clean-looking fields can provide some early warning if you take time to look. Gather up your scouting toolkit (including clippers and trowel) and head out to the fields. Use scouting results to plan rotations, choose varieties, and update fungicide decision-making for next year. How to identify the major diseases of canola as fields get close to swathing stage.

How to get bins ready for canola? Three things to keep in mind:

  • Clean them, and ensure they are malathion-free. Malathion residue can linger in bins for months after treatment and can be transferred from the bin to canola seed, putting marketability at risk. Canola found with malathion residues is unacceptable for export customers and can damage Canada’s reputation as a trusted supplier.
  • Set up for easier bin monitoring. This Canola Digest article describes a few options.
  • If heated-air drying is something you’d like to add for 2020, consider shopping now for a heater that works with your system. The Canola Encyclopedia has more on this. You can also listen to a podcast discussing an Alberta survey of drying options.

How to prepare the combine for straight combining? Green material can be an issue when trying to straight cut canola, any area in a combine where the material needs to transitioned can be a possible area for plugging. Areas such as header to feeder chain, feeder chain to rotor/cylinder or beater and chopper. Ensuring proper clearance and replacing worn parts like auger fingers and flighting, beater bats, vanes, chopper hammers and knives, and belts. This can help reduce issues of plugging and wrapping if green material is harvested. Find a few more tips on the ‘Straight cutting canola’ page of the Guide to Managing Canola Harvest.

What tools are needed to measure losses? This would be a good time to get the gear ready. You basically need three things:

  • A drop pan. You can get pans that attach to the bottom of the combine and activate (drop) from the cab. Or you can have a partner use a fairly simple throw pan or pan on a stick. Pans do not need to be exactly the width of discharge. Smaller pans can be used for more accurate diagnosis of where losses are coming from (right side, left side, rotor stream, chaff stream). The larger the catch area, the more representative the catch will be – as losses are not static across a harvested area. But the larger the collection, the more difficult it becomes to screen and separate the seed.
  • Some way to separate the seed from the chaff. This can be done by hand, but it can be time consuming. Canola screens or an airstream to lift chaff is best. Bushel Plus produces a blowing/screening device for this purpose.
  • A weight or volume measure. The tables that convert the collected sample into bushels per acre require the drop pan sample in millilitres or grams. It could also be handy to have the tables printed out or photographed to have on your phone. How to use these tools to measure losses.

Try the Combine Optimization Tool at canolacalculator.ca. It provides guidelines to set the combine to meet targets for grain loss, grain sample quality and/or productivity.