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Swathing and harvesting canola suggestions and guidelines.

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Proper canola harvesting techniques are the final steps to a profitable production season. Timely swathing and combining will produce the highest quality crop with the best yield. If used correctly, straight-cutting canola also can be an option under certain environmental conditions.

Factors to Consider

  • Maturity stage
  • Time in swath
  • Storage
  • Equipment settings
  • Direct harvesting
  • Drying

Action Plan

  1. Begin swathing when seed color change is optimum. Canola swathing should begin when color change on the main stem reaches 20 percent to 30 percent. Swathing prior to 20 percent seed color change can lead to excessive green seed problems at harvest time, resulting in quality discounts. Complete swathing before seed color change reaches 60 percent to avoid excessive shattering.
  2. Ensure swather is equipped to handle all materials. Swathers need proper table, throat, reel and dividers to accommodate the large amount of material encountered when harvesting a good canola crop. It should have a large throat opening free of projections, and the reel should be set as high and as far forward as possible. In areas where windrows could be lifted and blown by wind, a roller can help anchor stubble. Swaths of canola need 10 to 20 days to mature for green seed content to reach acceptable levels.
  3. Check all equipment thoroughly before starting canola harvest. Combines, trucks and bins must be free of holes because canola seed is very small and easily lost. Set the pickup to rub just under the swatch and ensure the travel speed of the combine is equal to that of the pickup to avoid tearing or pushing. Cylinder speeds will vary with crop conditions but should be one-half to two-thirds of that used for small grains. Fans should be set to low speed to avoid blowing canola seeds out with the chaff.
  4. Consider direct harvesting. If your canola crop has a slightly lodged canopy, even maturity across the field, few weeds and the crop hasn’t undergone several wet/dry cycles, you may consider direct harvesting. This technique reduces the number of operations, lowering machinery costs. It also cuts wind risk, reduces green seed and increases oil content. Disadvantages to direct harvesting include increased risk of pod splitting, greater potential for pod drop and slower drydown.
  5. Monitor moisture levels. Canola seed must be 8.5 percent to 9 percent moisture to store for more than 40 days. Even at lower moisture levels, canola can sweat and cause heating. Monitor stored canola to preserve quality and prevent spoilage. Natural air drying or artificial drying may be necessary for canola harvested at higher than 9 percent moisture. Dry at a maximum of 110 F to maintain quality.


The key to a successful canola harvest is understanding the process and the equipment. Consult your local Mycogen Seeds customer agronomist or trusted agronomic adviser to determine which harvesting procedures are right for your operation.

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