“IF you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it” is the mantra of Planfarm consultant Peter Newman, who has the ambitious aim of halving, in two years, the $90 million worth of canola estimated to be lost from the back of harvesters every year in WA.
Mr Newman is leading a targeted Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) investment project on this issue.
He encouraged canola growers to measure their losses this harvest and to share information about which harvester speeds and settings will minimise losses and maximise profits.
“Most growers would not be aware of the scale of the losses,’’ Mr Newman said.
“I estimate that across the State canola growers are losing on average about $75 per hectare worth of canola each year and that some are losing $100 to $200/ha.
“That is pure, bottom line profit going on the ground and in some cases, means the difference between a profitable and an unprofitable canola crop.
“Put simply, our harvesters are designed primarily to harvest larger grained crops and are not ideal for harvesting small canola seed.”
Mr Newman said that, unlike other crops such as wheat or barley, growers could not just look at the ground to estimate their canola losses.
He encouraged growers to use harvest loss trays this year and to make use of a calculator he has developed so they can convert what they catch into kilograms per hectare of grain losses.
The calculator is available as a hard copy table and an Excel spreadsheet that they can download at grdc.com.au/harvest-loss-calculator.
Mr Newman encouraged growers to follow the Twitter handle @harvestloss he had established and to use it to share information with others to troubleshoot solutions.
The Twitter handle already has a strong following.
Mr Newman said the obvious way to reduce losses was to reduce the speed of the harvester and that harvesting at full capacity (speed) would definitely result in losses.
“There will always be a trade-off between harvest losses and harvest speed, as a slower harvest effectively costs more per hectare,” Mr Newman said.
“However, there will be a harvest speed ‘sweet spot’ where canola grain capture is optimised and harvesting efficiency is maximised.
“I believe this ‘sweet spot’ is about 60 to 70 per cent harvesting capacity, but hopefully this figure will be refined during this project.”
Mr Newman said machinery settings could make a difference and he wanted growers to share information with each other about what would work.
“In Canada, some canola growers who measured losses found that they were losing a huge amount – about 170 kilograms a hectare of canola seed,’’ he said.
“But by changing settings and slowing down they got this amount down to below 50 kilograms a hectare, which is much better although still a considerable amount.
“One cause identified was ‘rotor wash’, where the canola keeps going through the rotor and out with the straw.”
Mr Newman encouraged growers to obtain harvest loss trays.
These could be purchased from ScherGain and Bushel Plus.
He had also purchased two trays to share with growers.
As well as via Twitter, Mr Newman is contactable via 0427 984 010 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The canola harvest losses project is one of the western region’s development and extension investment proposals procured by the GRDC and identified as a result of extensive consultation with WA growers and industry.
GRDC consultation with grain growers and stakeholders in WA occurs in several ways, including through the GRDC’s Western Region Panel, the GRDC’s Regional Cropping Solutions Network (RCSN) groups, annual RCSN open forums, tours in cropping areas by key GRDC personnel and networking at field days and industry events.