Straight Cut 101

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For years, farmers in western Canada have swathed their canola crop at harvest time.  However, many farmers don’t have the time, equipment or extra help they need to swath all of their fields at the ideal maturity.  Due to these logistics, many fields are swathed too early or too late resulting in non-optimal yield and quality.

Trial results show that there is little yield difference between swathing and straight cutting canola when done at the right time with a suitable hybrid.  With this in mind and the right hybrid choice, farmers can use straight cutting to improve their canola crop’s quality and yield.


When straight cutting, harvest staging is of utmost importance to get the best quality and highest yield possible out of your canola crop.  It is important to evaluate each field on a case-by-case basis.  In fields with thinner stands the plants will have more side branches which means a lot of yield will come from the branches.  In fields with adequate-to-heavy stands there will be less room for the plants to branch out; more yield will be coming from the main stems.  When staging, make sure to look for seed colour change and not pod colour change. In terms of timing, canola should be approaching 100% seed colour change and be below 10% seed moisture when heading out  to straight cut.

Things to Consider

Planting: Seed early to ensure a proper growing window and select a hybrid with a good fit for straight cutting.  The DEKALB lineup has four hybrids that are suitable straight cut options for western Canada, two of which have a broad acre focus: 

  • DEKALK 75-65 RR is the first to come out of the Monsanto Shatter Tolerance breeding program and offers competitive yield potential and improved pod integrity with the option for straight cutting.
  • DEKALB 74-44 BL offers outstanding yield potential, strong pod integrity and the option for straight cutting.
  • DEKALB 73-15 RR and DEKALB 73-75 RR are also suitable straight cut options in certain geographies.

Scale: If you are trying straight cutting on your farm for the first time, start small with only a percentage of your acres.

Equipment: Think about the type of combine header you have or are using.  A proper header will prevent the crop from bunching up and not flowing properly and will allow you to move along more efficiently.  DEKALB Agronomists recommend using a flex header with a cross auger, a draper header with a cross auger or a rigid auger header. 

Weed Control: The presence of green weeds in the field can make it difficult to straight cut. However, with the advanced weed control achieved in the Genuity® Roundup Ready® canola system, green weeds may be less of a challenge in these hybrids. If, for some reason, green weeds are a concern in your DEKALB canola, consider using a tank mix of Heat® LQ herbicide and a glyphosate herbicide (such as Roundup WeatherMAX® or Roundup Transorb® HC) to control green weeds and aid in crop dry down.   

Desiccants:  Growers may consider this option in a multi-stage field if the majority of the field is ready to harvest and some is further behind.  Growers should be advised that desiccants do not speed up maturity of a plant, they simply aid with a rapid drydown.  Syngenta’s herbicide Reglone® is an on-label desiccant option for many crops, including canola.  As per BASF label recommendations, Heat LQ herbicide can also be used as a harvest aid/desiccant on canola.  Consult the labels for these products for full recommendations.

Discuss straight cut hybrids that would be a good fit for your farm with your local DEKALB Agronomist.

Agronomist Tip: Reduce the chance of pod shatter by avoiding harvesting during the hottest, driest part of the day.