Canola School: What goes in to the swath vs. straight-cut decision


Farmers aren’t short on decisions to make on any given year, and canola growers choosing a specific variety will dictate, for the most part, whether they will be swathing or straight-cutting come harvest time.

On this episode of the Canola School, we talk with Jaden Wood-Sparrow, agronomy lead with G-Mac’s AgTeam, about swathing vs. straight cutting and when the lines between the two may get blurred. In this video, we discuss the differences in canola varieties and how they pertain to swathing or straight cutting, the benefits to each method, and when you may swath a straight cut variety and vice versa.

Canola varieties can suit either harvest method (ask your seed rep to make sure!) but farmers should be mindful of other factors outside of swathing or straight cutting when deciding on a variety to seed in the spring, including soil type and climate. For all considerations, Wood-Sparrow says that being able to capitalize when the plant reaches prime maturity, is the goal.

For those in regions similar to northern Saskatchewan, he says a long maturity variety will not likely be a good choice for farmers as they may struggle to to get their crop in the bin before winter comes. Alternatively, in areas similar to southern Saskatchewan, he says that although maturity within the variety is less of a concern when it comes to having time to get it into the bin, soil type will be a factor in the rate at which the plant matures and when the crop will be ready.

“When you’re considering your soil type and picking a variety, generally a sandier soil will bring in a crop sooner than a heavy clay soil just because it runs out of moisture a little sooner, and that crop matures a little bit quicker,” he says.

Depending on climate, soil, growing season and other factors, arguments could be made for the benefits of either method.

“The pros of straight cutting is you only have to go over the field once with one piece of machinery which is really nice. And, and you do tend to get a little bit more yield. If you’re swathing it, you’re shutting down that plant a little bit early, and those top pods don’t have as good of a chance to fill,” says Wood-Sparrow.  “The benefits of swathing is you have that even maturity, you know, you’re not waiting for green areas to come in, you’ve killed all of the plants at once, when you go in there and swath it, and you know that in two to three weeks, you’re going to be able to go in there and you’re going to be able to combine that and you’re going to be able to get it in the bin.”

Wood-Sparrow discusses other considerations including when it would make sense to switch methods in the video below:

For the full library of Canola School episodes, click here.

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