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Evaluating the potential of a winter canola-soybean relay intercrop in Ontario

Principal Investigator: Eric Page

Research Institution: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Timeline: April 2021 – July 2025  


  • Determine the optimal winter canola density and soybean seeding date that facilitates relay intercropping of these crops under Ontario conditions.
  • Assess the potential of winter canola-soybean relay intercropping on-farm. 
  • Evaluate the cost of production of relay intercrop systems in comparison to conventional soybean production practices.


  • The development of relay intercropping as a cropping system will help increase the per acre profitability of Ontario grain farmers.
  • The adoption of relay intercropping by Ontario farmers will promote year-round soil cover, thereby improving soil health and reducing the potential for soil erosion or nutrient loss in groundwater.
  • The addition of winter canola will help diversify crop rotations and will serve as a second high value oilseed option for Ontario farmers.

Scientific Summary:

Farmers in Ontario have recently been exploring relay intercropping as an alternative to annual monocropping. Interest in relay intercropping can be traced to its potential for increasing net on-farm income, as well as its benefits to soil health and reducing erosion. While winter wheat and soybean have been the most frequently evaluated relay intercrop, the recent expansion of winter canola acres in Ontario opens the possibility of an alternate winter crop to pair with soybean in a relay system. To date, there has been no research in Ontario or elsewhere exploring relay intercropping with winter canola and given the economic potential of these crops, a relay partnership represents a significant opportunity to enhance the sustainability and profitability of cropping systems in Ontario.

In this research we propose to evaluate a winter canola-soybean relay intercrop and several of the agronomic factors that may drive its success as a cropping system. The distribution of resources, both spatially and temporally, between crops in a relay intercrop is key for the success of the overall cropping system. Resource distribution can be modified through row spacing, seeding density and crop growth habit. As such, we propose to evaluate the impact of winter canola seeding density and soybean seeding date on the phenology, physiology and yield of both crops in a relay intercrop. Experiments will be conducted across southern Ontario, both on farm and on research stations in order to determine the feasibility of a winter canola-soybean relay intercrop and to optimize the agronomic factors that contribute to its success. Through the development of a winter canola-soybean relay intercrop, this research will help increase the per acre profitability of Ontario grain farmers, while reducing erosion and improving soil health through the implementation of continuous cover cropping systems.

External Funding Partners:

Rubisco Seeds

Ontario Canola Growers Association