Growers talk straight cutting

Straight cutting is a hot topic at the coffee shop and there’s no doubt its popularity is growing. Whether it’s to eliminate the need for a swather, a way to achieve plumper kernels and bigger yields, or as a way to better manage your harvest, straight cutting allows growers more flexibility when it comes to bringing in their canola crop.

For Franck Groeneweg, an Outstanding Young Farmers’ Program alumnus from Edgeley, SK, straight cutting has always been the norm. It wasn’t until he came to Canada in 2003 that he started swathing. “Every year I would get out my swather and think, ‘Do I really need to be doing this?”’ he says. “We would hire people from Europe to help with the harvest and it took a while for them to use the swather correctly. I was always looking for ways to get rid of that step in my canola harvest.”

Groeneweg tried a pod sealant product on his InVigor 5440 in 2009, and while it seemed to help keep the pods from opening, he later learned that this was likely due to the InVigor variety he chose and good fall weather, and not the product itself.

In 2010, he decided he was tired of swathing, and chose to straight cut the majority of his canola crop. He routinely did a glyphosate pass at 40 to 50 per cent seed colour change, and while some years worked better than others, he says that as long as he chose canola varieties with strong pod integrity, it was worth the risk.

After that, Groeneweg conducted a demonstration strip trial that included InVigor L140P before it came onto the market. “I didn’t think the crop looked that great but when I straight cut it I had a five per cent yield bump over the comparison strips. At that point, I was sold,” he says. “In 2016, I traded in three combines and a swather for two combines without a pickup header.” This savings in capital costs, and reduced human resources costs from taking swathing out of the equation have made a big difference to his bottom line.

Steve Larocque of Three Hills, AB, started straight cutting out of necessity when he moved to controlled traffic farming and couldn’t find a swather with the correct axle width to fit the 30-foot width he required. He had tried straight cutting in 2007, but that year a hail storm resulted in a 30 per cent yield loss on his swathed canola, compared to a 70 per cent on his straight cut fields.

While the weather was unusual for his area, he still recommends a mix of swathed, pod shatter tolerant canola and straight cutting to offset risk. “Hail can take out a lot of your crop,” says Larocque. “However, in 2012, a 113 km/hr windstorm blew swaths against fence lines, into valleys and everywhere. The swathed canola averaged seven to 15 bushels per acre in our area, with twice the combining to pick up swaths spread across entire fields,” he adds. “The straight cut canola yielded 30 bushels per acre after a lot of shelling. We had no extra harvest costs. So you can mark that weather in the straight cutting win column.”

Unlike Larocque, Groeneweg now only seeds pod shatter varieties. “The most difficult part of straight cutting is waiting those 10 extra days to get that extra yield,” he says. “Everyone has different risk tolerance levels, and there are years when I just wish the crop was in the bin. But in my experience, it is worth waiting.”

Groeneweg stresses that solid agronomics throughout the season is even more important when straight cutting your crop. “Good crop establishment and a strong crop stand will mature more evenly for easy harvesting,” he says. “The same thing goes for making sure your crop is weed free. You are giving your crop the most time to perform so you want to make sure it’s in as good shape as possible.”

If pre-harvesting with glyphosate, Larocque suggests using an aerial application. He sprays the outside rounds with a high clearance and has the plane cover the inside. “Headlands usually get missed by the plane as they try to avoid drift,” he says. “That leaves you with ripe canola you can’t get to because the canola on the headlands isn’t ready.”

Larocque points out that straight cut canola gets tougher sooner in the evening than swathed canola. “Dew covers all the pods instead of the just the outside of a swath so you can combine longer on swathed canola,” he says. “Canola will separate easier when straight cut because the straw is greener and doesn’t bust into small pieces like swathed canola does. That means more bushels in the tank.”

Larocque says when straight cutting canola it is important to use a cross auger kit on a draper header. He originally had a rigid auger header, which worked well, but he switched to a draper header, which works better in cereals. He said he had just as much seed loss at the front and side of the header than he did with a pick-up header, and seed loss was even between the two.

He also suggests growers use a grain bagger if they’re dealing with tough conditions or a lot of green chaff, or aeration to dry down chaff that normally falls along the sides of bins and begins to heat.

When it comes to straight cutting, with the exception of variety selection, the decision to straight cut over swathing doesn’t have to be made at the beginning of the year. But it does give you more flexibility at harvest, says Larocque. As harvest approaches, growers can take off their wheat and barley first and then move onto their canola harvest if they’re straight cutting the crop.

Larocque says it doesn’t have to be all or nothing with straight cutting, unless you’ve sold your swather. “Many farms are finding a balance of straight cutting coupled with swathing to manage logistics,” he says. “The data says you can increase yield by three to five bushels an acre when compared to swathing at 30 per cent seed colour change. If you find yourself forced to swath early to cover all your acres, why not swath some at 60 to 70 per cent seed colour change and straight cut what you can’t get to in a timely manner?”

If you’re contemplating straight cutting canola next fall, figuring out how to straight cut is the easy part, adds Larocque. “Place the reel up and all the way back, cross augers engaged and you’re straight cutting,” he says. “We’ve been straight cutting canola since 2010 and have learned the dos and don’ts of straight cutting canola from trial and error. We’ve had more successes than failures thankfully. After seven years of straight cutting, I know that it’s really about understanding the risks of straight cutting versus swathing, and then making the decision that is right for your farm.”

New InVigor hybrid combines clubroot protection with shatter reducing technology

By Jennifer Barber A new InVigor patented pod shatter reduction hybrid is targeted specifically to growers who are struggling to manage clubroot while still reaping the benefits of pod shatter technology when straight cutting their canola. The first dual-trait canola hybrid from Bayer, InVigor L255PC, has clubroot resistance built into its patented pod shatter reduction genetics.

“A lot of growers in Alberta are being challenged by clubroot, and this new entry into our Evolution Hybrid line-up was bred specifically to address those challenges,” says Blaine Woycheshin, crop manager, canola with Bayer. “InVigor L255PC has the same genetic clubroot resistance as InVigor L135C and InVigor L241C and will also help prevent losses from straight cutting canola.”

Clubroot primarily affects canola growers in Alberta, although it is now showing up in areas of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The soil-borne disease can cause premature death of the canola plant and, in bad years, lead to substantial crop losses. There is currently no way to remove the pathogen from the soil once it appears, so seeding resistant varieties is one of the best ways to control the disease as part of an integrated pest management system.

Woycheshin says that this new hybrid has the same pod shatter reduction technology as InVigor L140P and InVigor L233P, along with the clubroot resistance. InVigor L255PC is best suited for growers in the mid-to-long growing zones of the province. The medium height canola also has very strong lodging resistance and matures one and a half days later than the checks. In WCC/RRC trials, it yielded 109 per cent of the check.

“Growers in Alberta are choosing to straight cut in droves,” says Woycheshin. “When you look at InVigor L140P, market research shows that last year, 85 per cent of growers straight cut that crop. That is a big shift over only a couple of growing seasons, when swathing was still the norm. This new hybrid is able to address local disease concerns and still allow growers to take advantage of pod shatter technology when straight cutting their crop.”

Limited quantities of InVigor L255PC will available for the 2018 growing season, and growers should check with their local retailer to see what is available. “Taking away the worry of clubroot will allow growers to concentrate on harvesting a healthy crop,” says Woycheshin. “Our pod shatter reduction technology is helping to change the way growers harvest their canola crop.”