Sustainable Cropping Systems for Dual-Purpose Biennial Canola

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2014: $256,397.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Montana State University
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Darrin Boss
Montana State University
Dr. Steve Fransen, PhD
Washington State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, canola, corn, rapeseed, wheat, hay


  • Animal Production: feed rations, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: cover crops, double cropping, multiple cropping, nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Pest Management: competition, smother crops
  • Production Systems: holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    In the Northwestern United States (NWUS), small amounts of acreage has been dedicated to oilseed crops. In fact, the U.S., including NWUS, meets its canola (Brassica napus L.) oil and meal demands through imports from abroad. Given the shortage of biodiesel feedstock in the region, it is appropriate and timely to introduce dynamic and viable cropping systems that include dual-purpose canola as a main crop. In this project, an intensive sustainable cropping system for growing three to four harvestable crops in two seasons under irrigation and up to three harvestable crops under rainfed environment will be studied. Here we propose a pea-canola double-crop cropping system. The green pea–canola double-crop system can provide new opportunities for producers in the region through: (i) providing additional annual farm income with the production of green pea and canola forage, (ii) protecting the soil from wind erosion through with crop coverage, (iii) producing canola seed in the subsequent year for oil (biofuel or food) and high-protein meal, and (iv) preventing the decline of soil health. Six studies will be conducted across four states. The studies will focus on double-cropping canola with green pea. We plan to perform the project for at least three cropping cycles; a cropping cycle for a double-crop requires a total of 20 to 22 months. In the first year, green pea will be planted in spring/winter and harvested in early summer. Following the precursor crop, in the same year we will plant dual-purpose biennial canola, which will be harvested for forage in early fall, and for oil in the summer of the second year. Cover crop (silage corn) will be planted following the canola harvest, which concludes a complete cropping system cycle. Following the harvest of the summer crop, growers will go back to the traditional winter crop before starting another biennial canola cropping system in the same field. The design of the experiment will include three factors that will be implemented on 1 to 1.5 acres in the first two cycles of the study and 5 to 10 acres in the third cycle (includes only adaptable practices). A team of researchers and producers from participating institutions will perform the project. At least three of the studies will be conducted in producer field. Outreach is an integral part of this project. The project team anticipates that two to five years after the completion of the project: (1) acreage under biennial-canola will triple in the target area, (2) growers will save $30.50/Ac in N fertilizer due to free N contribution from legume, (3) growers will receive additional net profit of $65/Ac due to the addition of green pea as part of the cropping system and gross margin of $650/Ac from the harvest of canola as forage/hay, and (4) nitrate leaching will be reduced by 40%.

    Project objectives from proposal:


      1. Quantify the NPK requirements of biennial canola under mixed and double-cropped scenarios and using organic amendments as fertilizer sources

        Output: Determined N requirement of double-cropped dual-purpose biennial canola cropping system


      1. Quantify the N contribution from mixed grass/legume and green pea to succeeding dual-purpose biennial canola

        Output: Estimated the N contribution of legume precursors crops such as green pea to succeeding biennial canola


      1. Assess forage, silage, and hay quality of canola grown in mix and following green pea

        Output: Quantified feed quality oil yield and quality of dual-purpose biennial canola under double-crop systems


      1. Assess oil quality of biennial canola grown in mixed species and double-cropped with green pea

        Output: Compared oil yield and quality of dual-purpose and sole purpose biennial canola under double-crop systems


      1. Compare the winter survival of canola under sole biofuel and dual-purpose systems. This objective addresses if cutting canola in fall affects winter survival and thus final oil yield as a dual-purpose crop

        Output: Assessed winter damage/survival of dual-purpose and sole-purpose canola.


      1. Assess the total productivity and estimate the overall profitability of mixed and double-cropped dual-purpose biennial canola

        Output: Determined system level cost-benefit of dual-purpose and sole-purpose biennial canola under double-crop system


      1. Conduct outreach on the cropping systems for increasing awareness of growers and industry.

        Output: Conducted several field days, workshops and one-to-one meetings with target groups. Developed publications, online, multimedia, and other outreach products


      1. Establish a team temporarily we call “Partners in Biennial Canola Cropping Systems Research and Outreach”

        Output: A team that has defined function and organizational structure will be established to promote the adoption of dual-purpose canola cropping system in the region


    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.