Canola School: Combine Speed, Header Choice & Harvest Tips to Minimize Losses

The canola crop is ripening at an incredible pace — should you wait and straight cut or try and swath ASAP? How fast is too fast to combine canola, in either scenario? These are questions that come up every year, but the trade-off between swathing and straight-cutting are especially important this year as the canola crop is ripening very quickly. Farmers shy away from straight combining the crop because of shattering risk, but as the crop moves from green, to ripe, to dried-right-out seemingly over night, combining a swath also carries significant shattering risks

If you’ve got questions about combining canola, there are few more experienced with the topic than Jim Bessel, who retired from the Canola Council of Canada, but seems to be doing a poor job of staying retired. caught up with Bessel at a recent canola field day to talk harvest management. In the video below, Bessel talks about harvest speed, fine tuning the header to minimize swath shatter losses (they can be significant!), how to turn a flex header into a rigid one do-it-yourself-style and why, regardless of header choice, you should likely start combining late in the day.

For a fantastic top 10 list of canola harvest tips from the Canola Council of Canada,including a link to the combine seed loss guide, click here.


If you cannot see the embedded video, click here.



RealAgriculture Agronomy Team

A team effort of RealAgriculture videographers and editorial staff to make sure that you have the latest in agronomy information for your farm.


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I’d love to hear from anybody who has done side x side trials of straight-cutting part of canola fields while swathing and harvesting other parts. Every year is different and practices will differ regionally and from farm to farm within an area, but this may be a really good idea to try to add a metric to straight-cutting to see how well it’s working within a grower’s operation.

Lyndsey Smith

I’d like to hear too! I’ve spoken with many farmers this year who are very tempted to let it stand, but are just too nervous to lose too much crop to shattering. The thing is, there are shattering losses with a swath pick up too, but that’s not always taken into consideration


In 2014 I did a side by side trial in invigor canola. Straight cut Sprayed with roundup. Swathed with 35 ft swath 4 days later than spraying. Got a very strong wind and swaths blew around, enough that we had to make passes between swaths to clean up the field after harvest. 50 bu per acre in both straight cut 35 ft hydra flex and picking up swath right beside. Used weigh wagon to measure. Combined same day.


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