‘Cutting Edge Expo’ showcases ag innovation

In many farmers’ minds, Bayer CropScience is synonymous with canola. But Bayer is much more than that: the company has built a reputation for innovative seed and crop protection products across a broad swath of agriculture, and is working hard to fulfill its mission: “Science for a better life.”

This summer Bayer CropScience took its harvest management expertise on the road through its Cutting Edge Expo tours in Killam, AB and Yorkton, SK. Not only were Bayer’s new product innovations on display, it partnered with other agricultural companies to give growers an opportunity to learn from professionals from diverse agricultural sectors.

The first Cutting Edge Expo was held at Killam, AB on July 21, and focused on improving harvest management in canola. While maximizing canola productivity starts with buying and planting a topyielding variety like InVigor, any gains earned by planting quality seed can be easily lost at harvest. Swathing too early, poorly set equipment and combining too fast can quickly rob yield.

Jim Bessel, a consulting senior agronomy specialist and senior agri-coach with Agri-Trend, reported most growers are leaving three to five bushels of canola per acre in the field due to harvest losses alone. Bessel pointed out that if prairie growers could reduce harvest losses by just one percentage point they would earn $210 million more each year (based on 21 million seeded acres of canola and canola priced at $10/ bushel).

Unfortunately, some farmers have no idea of the extent of their harvest losses. They are more focused on the productivity of the machine than the quality of the job they are doing. Or they simply do not take time to measure the loss behind their combine. »

Granted, given canola’s small seed size, getting an accurate measurement of harvest losses isn’t easy. But it can be done. During the expo, Bessel displayed the proper tools for harvest loss measurement and described the procedure growers need to follow to measure loss. This includes turning off the straw chopper when collecting the sample — something very few producers do. He shocked a lot of farmers when he demonstrated just how few canola seeds represent a 1 bu./ac. harvest loss.

Lee Erickson, a producer from Donalda, AB said: “One bushel per acre harvest loss is our goal but it is really tough to achieve.” Tough, but not impossible. Here are some of the techniques discussed at the Killam Cutting Edge Expo.

Straight cutting

If planning to straight cut canola, Bessel recommends you start preparing in the spring by growing hybrids with increased shattering and lodging resistance such as InVigor L140P.

Since 1988, Bessel has advocated straight cutting canola. He says it can reduce harvest loss as well as increase yield and quality by giving the plant more time for pod filling. However, Bessel warned growers that straight cutting canola is a skill that must be mastered. He urged those straight cutting canola for the first time to “start small, start slow, and learn as you go.”

Focus on recognizing which canola crop can be straight cut and which should be swathed, says Bessel. Canola crops that are knitted together, have good pod integrity, uniform growth stage, minimal weed growth, low disease pressure and low risk of frost are ideal candidates for straight cutting.

He adds that growers may also want to consider straight cutting canola that is very short, lodged, or extensively branched and at risk of increased losses if swathed. Bessel recommends swathing if a crop is uneven, immature, at risk of frost damage or heavy with green weeds and/or crop rejuvenation.

Most importantly, he urges, slow down when combining. Just because you have the power to put the crop through at five miles an hour doesn’t mean you should travel at that speed. It’s as important to minimize harvest losses as it is to maximize combine throughput.

Bob Hurlburt a grower from Camrose, AB, attended the expo to learn more about straight cutting canola and said he was impressed with the day. “The speakers were quite knowledgeable and presented good information; just the facts. I picked up a few pointers that I can use. I took away what I wanted to learn.”

Protect your crop pre-harvest

During the expo, Bessel also spoke about the use of preharvest herbicides when straight cutting. Glyphosate can be applied in canola pre-harvest once seed is below 30 per cent moisture. Above 30 per cent, there is a risk glyphosate residues will remain in the seed.

At 30 per cent moisture, seeds will have changed to a yellow-brown colour. The seed coat will likely be translucent and the seeds may still be slightly mushy, but they can be rolled in your fingers. The most important thing to realize is that glyphosate is not a desiccant; it is strictly a weed control measure. “Glyphosate will not hasten harvest,” warns Bessel.

Reglone is a desiccant that can be used in canola preharvest but, like glyphosate, does not hasten harvest. If used too early, Bessel says it can lock in green seed, so you need to wait for 80 to 90 per cent seed colour change before applying Reglone. Since it’s a contact herbicide, you need to use high water volumes and the best time to spray is in the evenings. If using Reglone, be ready to combine as soon as the crop has dried down because increased pod shatter can occur after application.

Maximize your combine for straight cutting

John Deere participated in the Cutting Edge Expo at Killam and the company had its latest combine on display. Craig Mosher, senior marketing representative, harvest platform, and Steve Coon, product engineer, are both with John Deer Harvest Works in East Moline, IL. They spoke about preparing a combine for straight cutting canola.

Mosher says John Deere recognizes straight cutting is becoming increasingly popular with canola growers. It can result in higher yields, higher oil content and lower harvest costs, he explains. The company expects growers will be straight cutting half of the canola in Canada within the next five to 10 years. As a result, JD engineers are working with growers and companies like Bayer to fine-tune equipment and combine operation for successful straight cutting in canola.

Coon provided the following tips:

  • Cut canola as high as possible.
  • The reel should be up and back.
  • Set the reel finger pitch to the least aggressive setting (if adjustable).
  • On draper headers, slow down the side delivery belts; match belt delivery to ground speed.
  • Run the table as flat as possible (if adjustable).
  • Use rigid mode when cutting with a flex header.
  • Ensure the concave is level.
  • Match ground speed to a full concave.
  • Start with the slowest rotor speed possible, then increase as necessary.
  • Decrease concave clearance before increasing rotor speed.

John Deere is currently working on a number of changes to its combines to improve performance for straight cutting canola. In 2016, JD headers will be available with a full-length cross auger, eliminating the dead space at each end of the current top augers. In the near future a centre section seal kit for draper headers will be available to reduce header losses. The company already offers add-on fingers, divider rods and vertical knives to reduce problems with canola hanging on the dividers.

Dave Sereda, a producer from Bawlf, AB, really liked the inclusion of John Deere reps on a crop tour. “The expo was a really good idea. Growers found out they were looking at the wrong end of the combine when trying to reduce harvest losses,” he said. “The Expo also gave me the opportunity to talk with other growers and learn from my peers.”

Canola demonstration strip trial

Those attending the Cutting Edge Expo toured Bayer’s Killam demonstration strip trials of its top canola varieties. Bayer reps explained the agronomic features of each variety in the trial and answered growers’ questions.

InVigor L140P, Bayer’s new variety with increased shatter resistance and reduced pod drop, attracted a lot of interest. While marketed as a great choice for growers wanting to straight cut, it also offers extra risk management options. All growers can swath later, thereby increasing yield potential. InVigor L140P also gives growers a hybrid that they can leave standing longer before swathing. And it can reduce risks of lateseason damage by hail or wind.

Beyond canola

By no means was the Killam expo restricted to canola. Attendees had the opportunity to tour a wheat herbicide trial comparing products such as Varro, Velocity, Tundra and others. The take away was that to prevent further development of weed resistance, growers must rotate herbicides and pay careful attention to herbicide performance.

Growers at the expo also heard about insecticides and fungicides and had the opportunity to see the STORM seed treatment system.

Brett Jans, agronomist with Edberg Crop Management Inc., described the day as fantastic. “It is good to get the whole picture. Agronomics can only do so much. You have to look at the mechanical side of production as well,” he said. “Bayer introduced L140P, which provides pod and shatter resistance, and John Deere is working hard on the equipment side to decrease losses. So it is great that these two companies are working together to inform growers.” FF

Tips on straight cutting canola www.farmforum.ca/straightcuttingcanola