3 July 1998

Swathing rape is still goer for most

SWATHING remains an option for 95% of rape crops and could be the best decision for many.

"Where crops have lodged unevenly, like a rough sea, growers are better off to swath," says Beds contractor Robert Barnes, who swaths 2400ha (6000 acres) a year from Roxhill Manor Farm, Marston Moretain. He reckons seed losses are reduced and harvest flexibility improved.

Pod-shatter is inevitable in direct combined and desiccated crops, especially when pulling in low and knotted material with the reel, says Mr Barnes. A swather sorts things out when the pods are still pliable.

"One or two of my customers have switched to desiccation, but most are sticking with swathing."

Late timing is a frequent flaw with swathing, he adds. "80% of seeds in the lower pods, and about half in the middle pods, should be red-brown. Seed in the top pods should only just be starting speckle. And you need to check this well into the crop," he says.

Combining swaths should not be rushed. "Most red-seed problems are due to growers being over eager with the combine. Do not go too early. Leave at least ten days from swathing," he advises.

Short stubbles beneath the swath should be tackled without lifters on a conventional header, or with stiffer or metal fingers on a draper header, Mr Barnes suggests.

Decisions need taking soon and warns: "Either swathing, or desiccation, is going to be essential this season. Some patches are very backward and anyone waiting for natural senescence risks a lot of red-seed and weed problems."