Owners: Breil and Bernadette Jackson
Farm location: Nyngan, New South Wales
Total farm area: 8100 hectares
Area cropped: 4220ha (dryland)
Rainfall: 440 millimetres (long-term annual mean)
Soil types: sandy clay loam to clay loam
Soil pH: 6.8 (calcium chloride)
Breil Jackson’s small-scale trial comparing direct heading of canola with windrowing proved the value of windrowing as an aid to harvest logistics on his family’s farm south of Nyngan in central New South Wales during 2021.
Although GRDC trials have demonstrated that direct heading of canola could offer a viable alternative to windrowing, Breil says the long, delayed and weather-damaged harvest meant for him there was a small yield advantage to windrowing last year.
“The windrowed canola yielded 2.3 tonnes of grain a hectare compared to the direct-headed crop, which yielded 2.1t/ha of grain,” he says.
“But it was a very wet, non-typical harvest with most of the loss caused by the ripest pods ‘shelling out’ the grain in the direct-headed canola before we could harvest it.”
Breil says you can complete the windrowing before harvest starts. With 1450ha sown to canola, he says windrowing allows the canola to be harvested faster than direct heading.
“We windrow to bring the crop in evenly, to save time during the critical harvest window and to increase the capacity of the headers,” he says.
“When direct heading, the headers travel at three to four kilometres an hour, whereas when using a pick-up front, the headers travel at 6km/h. Over 1450ha, that’s a very worthwhile efficiency gain.”
Breil says windrowing during 2021 allowed the family to harvest most of the canola before the entire area earmarked for direct heading had dried.
“We have up to five per cent of some paddocks that have depressions that take longer to dry, so windrowing allows us to pull in these areas, allowing windrowed canola to be harvested earlier, whereas the direct-headed canola suffered some shattering losses,” he says.
“By the time all the direct-headed canola was evenly dry enough to harvest, it had to be harvested at 3 to 4km/h to get it to feed, and reduce front-end losses, even using a draper front with cross augers.
“When using a pick-up front, we see hardly any front-end losses because grain that sheds when harvesting a windrow falls onto the mat and goes into the harvester.”
Breil uses tramline farming, which he says makes it difficult to go around unripe canola and come back to it for harvesting later.
The benefits of windrowing are not only for the canola, but also for the crops harvested after the canola.
If direct heading was used to harvest Breil’s canola and the time delay meant there was weather damage to just 500ha of a 4t/ha durum wheat crop, he says the maths works in favour of windrowing.
He says working at a slower speed to harvest the canola could mean weather damage downgraded his durum wheat from DR1, worth $625/t, to stockfeed at $320/t.
“That’s $610,000 reasons why windrowing’s aid to harvest logistics is looking pretty good from where I am sitting.”
Going forward, he says the only time he would direct head canola is in dry finishes when crop biomass is low.
“Light crops produce small windrows and there’s more chance for these to blow across paddocks, making them difficult to harvest,” he says.
More information: Breil Jackson, email@example.com