skip to main content

Harvest prep by the numbers

Read Time: 8 minutes

By the Cargill team July 20, 2020

14 tips on using a desiccant from the Cargill agronomy team

Straight cutting canola has become a major tool to help maximize yield, manage harvest logistics and reduce weather risk. But as more farms incorporate straight cutting, they also have more questions about desiccation and harvest preparation.

Based on your biggest questions, we’ve pulled together our agronomists’ top tips to optimize harvest when using a desiccant.

To spray or not to spray

  1. For crops that are uneven and stagey, use a desiccant or consider swathing. Under ideal conditions (ha!), a canola crop will mature evenly and quickly on its own, making a pre-harvest desiccation spray unnecessary.
  2. If a crop is relatively even in terms of maturity, desiccation will allow you to take control of harvest timing, manage equipment and labour, and save you time.
  3.  When canola seed is mature, but the plants are not (green material), a desiccant will dry down green material and help the field reach uniformity, making it easier to combine and avoiding frost risk.
  4. If a canola crop has been damaged by hail, leaving it to mature a bit longer might allow the later pods to mature and increase your yield. In this situation, a desiccant can help you to get your harvest timing right.

Make your spray count

  1. Hold off on desiccation until 90% of the seeds on each plant across the field have turned completely brown. Remember, you’re locking in maturity of the seed once you spray a desiccant, and your goal is to dry down green material on the plant to speed up harvest so that it won’t clog your combine. #ProTip: Desiccant application will not reduce green seed count.
  2. When spraying, ensure the boom is high enough above the target canopy to achieve the complete spray pattern for the nozzles being used. Syngenta recommends calibrating a sprayer to 20 inches above the canopy when spraying Reglone® Ion.
  3. Coverage is key. Use sufficient water volumes and try to maintain a medium droplet size to avoid droplet runoff.
  4. Combine your crop no later than 14 days after desiccant application. 

The right hybrid for the job

  1. If your intention is to straight cut, choose a hybrid that stands well and has the architecture to branch out and weave together. Once you’ve applied a desiccant, this plant structure will stand up against seed loss in high winds.
  2. Each hybrid will require a different number of days between application of a desiccant and combining, as plant characteristics can vary significantly. Work with your Cargill representative to determine the right timing for each one.

Equipment matters

  1. Use a vertical or extended side knife on the combine header. This can make a huge difference in harvest efficiency and further reduce seed loss from shattering as the header attempts to cut into the standing crop, improving yield and increasing the speed at which you can move through the crop.
  2. Ensure your combine header is equipped with an upper cross auger and center section seal kit to further increase harvest efficiency and reduce seed loss.
  3. If you harvest a lot of canola each year, consider adding a dedicated canola header with an extended cutter bar to your fleet.

Get a second opinion

  1. If you’re looking for help in staging your canola crop and deciding whether or not to swath, straight cut after a natural dry-down, use a glyphosate treatment or a desiccant like Reglone Ion, contact your Cargill representative. We know these decisions can be tough and we’re here to help you get the most out of your canola. 


Desiccant or weed control?

The answer depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Looking to desiccate your crop for harvest ease? Once your canola has reached 90% maturity (i.e. 90% of each plant’s seeds have turned brown) you want to spray a desiccant like Reglone Ion to set yourself up to harvest a little more quickly or make combining easier by drying down green material.

If your crop has a lot of green perennial weeds and you want to manage them before straight cutting, choose a pre-harvest application of glyphosate or glyphosate plus Heat® LQ. However, this is a weed control treatment, not a desiccant, and your crop will need more time to dry down prior to harvest (typically about three weeks). 


*Always read and follow label directions. Reglone is a registered trademark of a Syngenta Group Company. Heat is a registered trademark of BASF Canada.