DIRECT heading of canola is becoming more popular with the development of silo aeration techniques and new, shorter length varieties, allowing farmers to harvest earlier than usual and eliminating the need for swathing in some areas.
The silo aeration procedure is being investigated and refined by Agriculture Department researcher Chris Newman, who has installed several aeration units in on-farm silos as part of a Grains Research and Development Corporation-funded project to allow farmers to harvest at higher than usual moisture levels.
The aerators mix the samples up with flows of air, enabling crops to be harvested at higher levels than the delivery standard and cooled to prevent deterioration.
The grains can then be blended with drier crops that are harvested later or held for delivery to a grain drying plant.
"Early harvest of seed is my push at the moment because it has so many benefits in preserving the viability and vigour of the grain," Mr Newman said.
"One of the best things about using aerators is it allows you to get started; even with moisture levels ranging from 7-13pc in a paddock, the aerator can even it up in the bin.
"The strategy is to have your harvester ready to go, as canola won't wait."
But Mr Newman stressed aeration cooling would not reliably dry grain and if used for this purpose, would place the grain at significant risk.
He said low flow rate aeration with air of the appropriate quality cools grain and slows most quality deterioration processes.
These include barley malting grade, germination and seed vigour, insect and mould development, wheat bread-making quality and oilseed quality.
Mr Newman said another advantage of direct harvesting was that the heads were left on the stems longer, allowing for higher oil content and bigger seeds.
He said growers who used aerators saved on swathing costs, and the seed sample was cleaner than if picked up from a swath.
The losses also appeared to be lower than occured in a swath, athough this was tempered by the risk of shedding if the crop is left standing too long and is harvested on a very hot day.
Mr Newman has been working with Grass Valley farmer and seed producer Ray Fulwood, who has been involved in the development of the new triazine-tolerant Tranby canola variety.
He has installed three aerating systems, at a cost of about $700, to three 100m3 silos and a field bin at Mr Fulwood's property near Grass Valley.
Mr Fulwood said Tranby is a short season variety suitable for eastern Wheatbelt areas and has an oil content about 4pc higher than Stubby.
In Agriculture Department trials in low rainfall eastern regions, Tranby was 9pc-16pc higher yielding than Karoo and Surpass 501TT.
And in the northern region, it was 9pc higher yielding than Karoo and had similar yields to Surpass 501TT.
It is an early flowering variety, similar to Trilogy and 10 days earlier than Karoo and 15 days earlier than Surpass 501TT, ATR Eyre and ATR Stubby.
p An aerator duct fitted to a 100m3 field bin at Ray Fulwood's property.
Digi in A3 pix - Newman sample and Newman sample 2
p Agriculture Department researcher Chris Newman prepares to sample canola stored in an aerated field bin.
p Grass Valley farmer and seed producer Ray Fulwood harvests his Tranby canola crop with his brand new John Deere 9660 harvester with draper front.