Swathing Canola

Swathing Canola

Rarely in our short history of winter canola have I seen straight cutting work out very well for the producer, so even with the short nature in both yield and stature of this canola crop, the fields worth harvesting are still probably worth swathing.

By now you may be getting questions or heard discussions on when to start swathing the canola.  The highlights of what goes into that decision are as follows:

Canola seeds approach maturity and will complete filling at about 40% moisture and then turn from green to yellow to reddish brown to black depending on variety.  They start this from the bottom of the main stem and progress up the plant.  The more immature seeds at the top of the plant might still be green but they do need to be firm and not easily crushed when rolled between the thumb and fingers.

I have heard of people starting to swath at 40% color change without problems, but I like to wait for about 50% to 60% color change.  This is not a real “scientific” process, more a judgment call or art. 

Check several plants around the field, peel back the pod cover and expose the seeds on the bottom, middle, and top of each plant and assess (guess) how much of the seeds have changed color, (40, 50, or 60%).  You can have green (but firm) seeds throughout the field, the questions is do you have 50% or so color change in all the seeds in the field.  They do not all have to be a solid color (brown or black) but have they started changing color? If they have started changing color then it is a color change.  See…….it is a judgment, or art, not something set in concrete.  However, it is not that difficult, and is somewhat forgiving.  Just use a good judgment.

 On average seed color change occurs at about 10% every two to three days, faster if it is hot and dry.

If a producer has a large amount of acres and they are all at the same maturity, he may have to start swathing at 40% to be able to finish swathing at 60% color change. 

In reality, if you are unsure, start swathing your field about a day or two after you start seeing several other canola fields starting to be swathed, especially some one’s field who has raised winter canola in the past. If unsure……..follow.


Usually canola can be thrashed after 7- 10 days in the windrow, this too can vary of course with the weather.

Most of this information can be found in the “Canola Time of Swathing Guide” that has been handed out at every canola meeting I have been to, or probably can be found on the web.  

My guess is canola will start being swathed in our area in about 3 to 7 days. Of course that depends on the WEATHER!




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