Canola School: Deciding on prime swathing time

With several factors and variables to consider, deciphering when to swath a canola crop can put a couple extra grey hairs on the heads of farmers. On this episode of the Canola School, we discuss the most important factors to consider and other variables to be mindful of when making the call to swath.

Weighing in on the topic is Jaden Wood-Sparrow, agronomy lead with G-Mac’s Ag Team. He says, ideally, you’re looking for 60 per cent seed colour change, with a focus on assessing the main stem.

“When you look at the main stem, the bottom pods should have black seeds in them. The middle pods should be changing colour. So when I say changing colour, I mean any seed that has some colour change on it, even if it’s just a speck. And then the top pods are going to be still green. But when you push, roll them between your fingers, they’re going to be firm, and they’re not going to squish,” says Wood-Sparrow.

If the crop isn’t quite at that prime stage for swathing, Wood-Sparrow recommends going back out every three to four days, which could see a 10 per cent difference, depending on weather conditions (warmer and sunnier speeds up the process). As you inch closer to being able to swath, he says checking more often can’t hurt.

In the event the swather hits the field too early or too late, either scenario could mean yield loss for the producer.

“The biggest concern going too late is having pods shatter and having pods drop, not only just when you’re swathing, but just standing out in the field. If we get big winds, you can lose a lot of yield from them dropping to the ground and pods shattering open,” shares Wood-Sparrow.

Alternatively, if farmers hop in the field too early to swath, yield loss is possible there as well. Plants could have seeds that aren’t able to mature and stay green, which could cause quality issues on top of yield loss.

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