How to reduce losses at harvest
Choosing the best combine settings is a tricky balance of minimizing dockage while avoiding excessive seed loss. Remember that canola losses at harvest aren’t only out the back of the combine: get out and walk around the machine, watching for leaks between belts, off the table, and through cracks or holes, especially at junction points. Use the CCC’s Harvest Combine Seed Loss Calculator to measure combine losses, then use the Combine Optimization Tool to reduce those losses. Adjusting settings isn’t ‘once and done’: recheck at least every field. Remember that efficiency decreases when a machine is pushed beyond its peak processing capacity, leading to seed losses and higher equipment maintenance costs. For more hints on optimizing combine performance, review these top tips from this summer’s Combine College. (Canola Encyclopedia: Harvest management) (How to reduce combine loss) (Understanding dockage in canola)
There’s still time to disease scout
The first step to managing diseases is knowing what’s actually there. Disease scout pre- and post-swathing extra carefully in fields that looked good coming through the summer but aren’t producing the yield expected. While it’s too late to regain yield lost to disease this year, knowing what infected the crop this year should be a key consideration in next year’s seed choices.
Blackleg identification and race analysis, verticillium stripe testing, and soil and tissue tests are available through labs in each province . Use testing to identify unknown disease samples and to confirm whether pathogen still exists in previously infected soil. Clubroot pathotype testing by the University of Alberta is not publicly available, but contact your local CCC agronomist to discuss options if you have concerns about specific disease samples or symptoms.
Post-harvest weed control
Fall is the best time to get ahead of perennial and tough winter annual weeds, but timing can be challenging. Wait at least four weeks after swathing or straight cutting to ensure enough leaf material has regrown to take up adequate herbicide. Application following a frost can improve the activity of some herbicides (like dicamba). However, glyphosate’s activity is not greatly improved by frost, waiting is risky if frost proves harder than expected, and herbicide efficacy is higher when applied in warm temperatures. The herbicide window closes quickly: be mindful of the latest date certain herbicides can be applied to cereal or pulse stubble ahead of canola to avoid harmful residues. Plan early as some herbicide chemistries may be in short supply. (What is the best time for fall weed control?) (Fall weed control and frost)
Look back to improve next year
The 2022 growing season threw a long list of headaches: too cold, too dry, too wet, too hot – just modify the order depending on your region. Still, if this year’s yields weren’t up to expectation, be a ‘student of the crop’ to learn for 2023. Ask:
- Could harrowing / better residue management last fall have better prepared the seedbed?
- Was the seeding date right?
- Could different management techniques have helped the crop better withstand specific weather challenges?
- Did the applied fertility package ideally meet the crop’s needs, or was it yield-limiting or over-ambitious?
- What pest issues bit into yield throughout the season? Is there insect damage on pods and leaves, disease symptoms, or weed carcasses at pre- or post-swathing?
- Do post-harvest stem counts show an adequate plant population?
- Would outside expertise be beneficial to assess this year’s yield limiters and improve outcomes next year?