Monoculture is the most common form of canola production in the inland Pacific Northwest. However, integrated livestock (dual-purpose) and intercropping methods have been experimented with. Both of these production methods offer advantages through increasing biodiversity and economic diversity in canola production systems. The increased biodiversity of these systems is thought to improve soil health and increase the sustainability of oilseed systems in Washington State. WSU researchers are currently seeking to better understand and develop guidelines for both production systems.
Intercropping is the practice of planting more than one cash crop in the same field at the same time. Oilseeds such as canola, camelina, and flax are typically intercropped with legumes such as grabonzo beans, peas, and lentils. It is thought that the legumes furnish nitrogen to the oilseed crops while the oilseed crops compete with weeds and use moisture not readily accessible to legumes. Additionally, there appear to be beneficial shifts in insect ecology and soil microbial populations.
Dual purpose canola is the practice of growing early seeded winter canola as both a forage crop and a seed crop. The winter canola may be planted with a companion crop such as spring oats or millet for the purpose of improving the nutritive quality of the forage. The forage harvest, conducted in the late summer or early fall may be conducted by allowing the cattle to graze the canola or swathing and ensiling the canola. Canola tends to be a high protein low fiber feed.