Canola School: Why spring harvest is a different beast than combining in fall

Spring harvest is underway in Western Canada, in canola fields that were left in the field due to wet conditions last fall.

For growers who haven’t combined canola in spring before, there are some significant differences between harvesting in fall versus spring notes Shawn Senko, agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada, in this Canola School episode.

First, he recommends getting a good sample as early as possible to understand how the seed fared through the winter, and what your options are for marketing it.

“You can visually see if it still has that good regular colour like you see in fall, or if it’s starting to look grey and oxidized,” he explains. “You should still take it to your buyer to see how they grade that quality.”

Also check for wildlife damage, which could possibly be covered by crop insurance, notes Senko.

When it comes to getting the combine out, don’t assume last fall’s settings will work for combining in spring, he stresses.

“The plant itself will change a lot, degrading over winter. When it hits the combine it will disintegrate a lot easier than in fall. You’ll see a lot more loading on the sieve, as that material will just break up and land up on there. So check to see because you could end up losing a lot more out of the combine,” he says.

Settings may also need adjusting as temperatures rise through the spring.

There are also some critical differences with putting canola into storage in spring versus fall. In spring, the warm days can help dry it down in the bin, but there aren’t the cool fall temperatures to cool it down for safe storage, which can put canola at risk as things get busy with seeding, says Senko.

Check out Shawn Senko’s conversation with RealAgriculture’s Kara Oosterhuis in this latest Canola School video:

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