Evaluating Canola and Winter Cover in Alternative Cropping Systems in Iowa

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2010: $9,922.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Grant Recipient: Iowa State University
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Mary Wiedenhoeft
Iowa State Univ

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: canola, corn, soybeans, wheat


  • Crop Production: cover crops, crop rotation, double cropping, intercropping, multiple cropping, nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: green manures

    Proposal abstract:

    The project will investigate different crop rotations that include canola and winter cover in order to provide farmers with recommendations about establishing alternative systems in Iowa. Canola is a productive oilseed crop that may additionally benefit a successive corn crop in an Iowa crop rotation. Adding winter cover crops to crop rotations in the form of winter annuals and perennial legumes serves to reduce soil erosion, improve nutrient management, and break weed life cycles. The objectives of this research are to 1) increase the amount of information available to growers regarding canola as an alternative oilseed or ‘third’ crop in Iowa, 2) increase the amount of information regarding winter cover crops in Iowa, and 3) assess the ecological and economical impact of alternative cropping systems. Both spring and winter varieties of canola will be evaluated for their suitability in an Iowa crop rotation. Winter annual crop species (canola or wheat) as well as a perennial legume species (red clover) will serve as winter cover crops in the rotations. The ecological and economical impact will be determined using an ecological footprint model and enterprise budgets, respectively. Results will be made available to growers and peer researchers by various forms of media including university extension publications and on-farm demonstration field days.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Short-term: The project will serve to provide growers and land managers in Iowa with a comparison of common and alternative cropping systems. Identifying the best methods of incorporating canola and winter cover into Iowa cropping systems is the primary outcome. Determining the yield potential of spring and winter canola and the effects on the subsequent crops (primarily corn) of the crop rotation will best serve farmers interested in alternative oilseed crops and transitioning to alternative systems. Furthermore, assessing whether spring or winter canola can yield comparatively to the primary canola growing regions of North America is a major factor in determining the suitability of the crop to Iowa. Maintaining farm profitability via competitive economic yields resulting from alternative cropping systems is an ideal outcome. Intermediate-term: Reducing farming practices that negatively impact Iowa’s environment is another ideal outcome of the project. This may be accomplished by the improvements in soil nutrient management and pest control resulting from an established rotation incorporating ‘third crops’ and winter cover beyond the initial transitional years. Assessing the potential ecological impacts of such alternative rotations will be key measurements made. Long-term: If these outcomes can be achieved, ‘third’ and cover crops may become established fixtures in the typical Iowa cropping system while also further developing an established model to make inferences about other alternative cropping systems.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.