Biennial Canola for Forage and Ecosystem Improvement in Dryland Cropping Systems

This work was a demonstration of concept that in year 1 canola can be intercropped with peas and the forage ensiled 70 days later, and a canola oilseed crop subsequently harvested in year 2. Botanically, when winter canola is seeded in the spring or early summer, it will grow as a biennial crop, in that it will remain vegetative and produce prostrate shoots and an extensive root system in year 1, undergo shoot dieback during the winter, and resume vegetative and reproductive growth in year 2. A dense plant population is not required for winter canola because the plants can get quite large after flowering. This provides a possibility for intercropping with an annual crop that would not be in severe competition for space in year 1 and would not be present in year 2. Intercropping with a legume has the added advantage of supplying nitrogen to the canola crop in year 2 as the legume roots and residues decompose. In year 1 of this project, canola and peas were intercropped, the forage harvested and ensiled, the resultant silage fed in a total mixed ration to dairy cows, and in year 2 the canola oilseeds were harvested. Description of the nutritive value of the forage and yields of forage and oilseeds are presented below. In summary, creating sustainable systems for agriculture in dryland regions should include economical options for producers to diversify. The intercropping of canola and peas yielded an ensilage that was palatable with an acceptable feeding value as indicated by the chemical composition, in vitro digestibility, and feeding study with lactating dairy cows. Ensiling the forage crop and feeding it as part of a total mixed ration avoided potential problems that might occur with direct grazing. Thus, biennial forage canola appears to be a viable option in crop rotation systems in dryland areas to diversify crop production and obtain forage for ruminants.

Grant Information

  • Project ID: 082
  • Project Status: Complete


  • Principal Investigator(s): Kincaid, R.
  • Investigator(s): Hulbert, S., Johnson, K., Pan, B.
  • Grant Amount: $30,091
  • 2010 Progress Report (PDF)



Barbano, Jaci. 2011. The feeding value of silage made from biennial canola forage as part of ecosystem improvement in dryland cropping systems. Undergraduate Research & Creative Projects Poster Fair. College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, Washington State University (poster presentation).

Kincaid, R., K. Johnson, J. Michal, S. Hulbert, W. Pan, and J. Barbano. 2011. Biennial canola for forage and ecosystem improvement in dryland cropping systems. Eighth International Symposium on Nutrition of Herbivores (poster presentation).

Kincaid, R., K. Johnson, J. Michal, S. Hulbert, W. Pan, J. Barbano, and A. Huisman. 2011. Biennial canola for forage and ecosystem improvement in dryland cropping systems. Adv. Anim. Biosci. 2(2):457.

Kincaid, R.L., K.A. Johnson, J.J. Michal, A. C. Huisman, S.H. Hulbert, and W.L. Pan. 2011. Production of silage containing biennial canola and pea for use as forage in a dairy ration. The Professional Animal Nutritionist (accepted for publication).

Kincaid, Ron, Kris Johnson, Jennifer Michal, Drina Huisman, Scot Hulbert and Bill Pan. 2011. Intercropped biennial canola for silage. WSU Dairy Newsletter, accessible

The results of this project also have been incorporated into the website for oilseed production activities that can be accessed at

Additional Funds Leveraged

College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Resource Sciences undergraduate research & creative projects, $1000.


Short Term: The data collected in the project have helped identify areas for further study that include improved winter survival of canola when the forage is removed, plant varieties for intercropping with canola, and baleage as an alternative to ensiling the forage.

Intermediate‐Term: An overview of the project will be presented at producer meetings scheduled for January in Odessa and Colfax, WA. It is anticipated that some growers will incorporate intercropping and forage crop removal in their 2012 canola production.

Long‐Term: Integration of intercropped canola and legumes into crop rotation in eastern Washington to diversify production and to increase oilseed production for biofuels.